Whatever happens after those children come home from their adventures in portal worlds? The trauma of living years in another world, going through puberty even, then being cast back into your earth-bound body, at the same age you left? C.S. Lewis didn’t really address the mental health implications of the children he sent to Narnia, did he?
But never fear, Seanan McGuire swoops in with Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children, a special school for children who tumbled through a doorway, a rabbit hole or any other number of entrances to magical worlds, and came back again.
The main character comes right out and says she’s asexual, something this book has been praised for. She shows that she’s interested in the romance but not what comes after. Another child was rejected from his world because they thought he was a princess but on the inside he was a boy. There are twins who were assigned pretty and clever roles by their parents, now rebelling against that. It seems that magical lands like taking the children that don’t quite fit.
For us, places we went were home. We didn’t care if they were good or evil or neutral or what. We cared about the fact that for the first time, we didn’t have to pretend to be something we weren’t. We just got to be. That made all the difference in the world.
In essence there’s a whole big metaphor here for parents who refuse to accept their children as they are when they are not straight or cis. In their magical worlds they finally found a place where they felt the belonged, when their parents try and shape them in a pre-designated image. Most the parents are in denial.
But the Home is the opposite of a “correctional” facility. Eleanor West may pretend to parents that she works to “cure” the children, but instead she listens to them and lets them come to terms with their loss in their own ways. Sometimes doors will open again, but more often than not, they don’t.
We notice the silence of men. We depend upon the silence of women.
The plot is more of an aside, with a murder mystery at the centre. It’s more about exploring the children and how they are affected, more by our society than the other lands. I loved all the different types of places they visited, although these are just glimpses. If anything, it was a little too short and I will definitely be reading Down Among the Sticks and Bones, which follows Jack and Jill’s back story.
Book Source: Purchased