Summary: Lilly Connelly can’t wait to turn eleven years old. Eleven is a magical year in the Connelly family. Eleven is imagination and limitless potential. Being eleven is like standing on the top of a mountain, wind in your face, arms outstretched and knowing that with just a bit of magic you could fly.
Lilly lives with her parents and fourteen-year-old sister, Anna, in the mountains of rural Montana. Her photographer father, Sam, drinks a bit too much and looks at the world through his camera. Her mother, Nell, tells Lilly fanciful fables that feed her imagination. Anna spends her days dreaming of marrying her boyfriend.
From her mother’s stories and her own nearly white hair, Lilly fantasizes that she is a soulmate to the trumpeter swans. In her mind, they speak to her. The graceful migratory birds come to the Montana mountains each year to nest and hatch their young. Hunted for their beautiful white feathers, meat and skins, the trumpeter swans are endangered. Lilly and her father witnessed the senseless slaughter of one of their young the previous year. Sam is sure he knows the identity of the swan killer.
In 1929, on the day Lilly turns eleven, the family rides their bikes out to the marsh to see the trumpeter swans. Lilly climbs a tree to get a better view. She sees Anna wandering off in the meadow flowers. She sees her parents smiling, watching the swans, taking photographs. Then she sees a man in a dark green coat shatter her world with a shotgun blast.
Comments: The imagery in The Swan Keeper is very powerful. It is swirl of white—the cold, the snow, Lilly’s hair, the swans, angels, dreams… The white and cold crept into my bones. But the coldest of all is the man in the dark green coat.
This is the kind of book to read by a fire, under a blanket with a cup of something hot to drink. But I think it would not be the kind of book to read in a cabin in the winter forest, alone with nothing but the sounds of the night with my mind listening for the crunching of boots in the snow outside my window.
Themes in The Swan Keeper span generations. I recommend this book for 12 and up.
I give this one 5 books.