The Land of Decoration is narrated by ten-year-old Judith McPherson. Judith’s mother is dead and she lives with her father, who is very religious. The religion to which they both belong is not named but they appear to be Jehovah’s Witnesses or something very similar. They read the Bible together, attend weekly meetings, knock on doors to spread their message and believe that the end of the world is coming soon.
Judith is lonely, friendless and has convinced herself that her father doesn’t love her. She spends most of her time playing in her bedroom, where she has created a ‘Land of Decoration’ from scraps of paper, pipe cleaners, felt, boxes, buttons and any other bits and pieces she can find. One day Judith adds some snow to the Land of Decoration– and when it suddenly starts snowing in the real world too she believes she’s performed a miracle. And when Judith begins to hear the voice of God, she decides to use her new powers to deal with the school bullies and some of the other problems in her life.
The Land of Decoration was not quite what I was expecting and if I had known more about it, it probably wouldn’t have been a book I would have chosen to read. It quickly became obvious that it was going to be a much darker story than I had thought it would be.
I did like Judith – she’s bright and intelligent but also quite innocent and naïve (although there were times when her voice seemed too ‘old’ and I thought she stopped feeling like a believable ten-year-old). The bullying scenes felt sadly realistic and so did her father’s experiences (he is breaking a strike at the factory where he works and he’s also starting to have some doubts about his religion).
I really cared about both Judith and her father and I actually thought the story of their relationship, his problems at work and her problems at school would have been strong enough on its own to form quite a compelling novel. I was less interested in the parts of the book that dealt with the miracles and the conversations with God, and I admit I found some of it very confusing. A lot of my questions were left unanswered at the end and I’m not sure I really understood everything that had happened.
The Land of Decoration is a very imaginative and original book, but not one that I personally enjoyed very much. I’m sure it’s going to be a success though, and it will be interesting to see what Grace McCleen writes next.