Monday, November 5, 2018
Book Review: 'Scars, Scribbles and The Power of Crayons' by Lara Lazenby
Florida author Lara Lazenby is a four-time cancer survivor originally diagnosed at the age of seven with stage IIIB Hodgkin’s Disease. A teacher, artist, entrepreneur, writer, and speaker, she writes about childhood cancer and late effects, physical and emotional scars, caregivers, survivors, and strong women. Lara wants others to look at their own scars and see strength, faith, hope, healing, and magic because she believes ‘There’s a little superhero in us all.’ Lara includes her biographical data the following that shares the tone of this fine book – ‘Most women get silver on their 25th wedding anniversary. Steven, Lara’s husband, gave her his kidney.’
This sensitive novel is far more advanced than many debut novels, and that may be in part due to the fact that Lara’s heroine Lexi is a fictitious representation of her own life. The similarities are far to parallel to doubt that observation. That is actually a compliment because memoirs involving the subject matter of this book can be sanguine, but not in Lara Lazenby’s skilled hands. The child’s point of view is apparent form the opening chapter – ‘The first few notes of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue blared from the living room stereo and down the hall into my bedroom. This organ music worked for Dracula, so I figured it would work for me too. I asked Granny to put that piece of music on to help me get into a better mood. It wasn’t going to be your normal Halloween party, but I was excited to wear my makeshift gypsy costume. I designed it myself from the clothes I found in Mommie’s closet. Cinching her long red gingham skirt around my waist, I tried to pin it in place with Granny’s blue crystal brooch—much prettier than the safety pin sitting on my nightstand. So much material bunched up, I couldn’t fasten it tight enough. With each step, the skirt slipped off my hips. Did Dracula have this many problems? Fumbling with the brooch, I poked my finger instead of the material. Blood puddled on my thumb. I shoved it into my mouth before it could stain the skirt. Blick. A metallic taste coated my tongue. I glanced at the mirror and made a face. Pinching my cheeks, hoping to pull some life back into my skin, I barely recognized the seven-year-old staring back at me through dark circles. I hated mirrors. Was that how all of Dracula’s victims felt, or was I just special? He was lucky. He couldn’t see the monster in the mirror. In my new look, I didn’t look anything like a gypsy. A ghost wrapped in red and white checkered cloth on her way to a picnic was more like it. A pale, sickly kind of ghost that might float away if a big enough breeze happened to come by. Mommie’s white eyelet blouse draped like a balloon, so that thought didn’t seem too far-fetched. My own clothes puddled around me, so in hers, I drowned and waddled in a pool of fabric. Not the look I was going for. But today Mommie was going to let me wear make-up, so at least I would be a pretty gypsy.’
The accessible and tender flow of this novel is present on every page and is condensed in the plot summary – ‘Seven-year-old Lexi has Hodgkin’s stage IIIB cancer—for a mother and child in crisis, the ultimate test of survival. Told in her own words, SCARS, SCRIBBLES AND THE POWER OF CRAYONS takes us on Lexi’s spiritual journey as she fights Death in the only ways a child knows how, a novel that reveals the power of faith to heal in the face of grief, loss, and death. California 1974. “I want something before I die. I even made a deal with God. The only thing getting in my way is cancer.” . Lexi, a mischievous seven-year-old, believes in superpowers, secret passageways, magic, and miracles. Every Friday, Lexi fights monsters and bloodsuckers (doctors and nurses) in the dungeon (the hospital.) She has epic arguments with Death—a character in her story whose shadow loves to whisper, haunt and tease her. Lexi has watched cancer patients younger than herself disappear week after week but she is "hell-bent" on winning this battle with the enemy. The sudden death of a sick friend is too much for Lexi and her mother. To escape her fears, they leave town in a little blue Pinto en route to Oak Creek Canyon, Sedona and the Grand Canyon. Lexi discovers the Pueblo Indians and Mother Earth's red rocks know more about scars and healing than she does. Still, Death haunts her. Lexi has a big imagination filled with dreams but she knows that Death has other plans. ”My battle with Death has just begun. But I will get my greatest wish. If I can just live long enough. This is the story of a child’s fight to survive in the face of death and the bonds between a mother and her daughter as they face the ultimate unknown together.’
Highly recommended on many levels and a book that should especially be read by children or adults with chronic serious illnesses. Grady Harp, November 18
This book is free to borrow from Kindle Unlimited
Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.