Tornado Weather by Deborah E. Kennedy published in 2017.
“Five-year-old Daisy Gonzalez’s father is always waiting for her at the bus stop. But today, he isn’t. As the bus driver, Fikus, lowers her wheelchair to the ground and looks around, chaos erupts behind him as one child has an accident and the rest begin to scream. When Daisy says her house is right down the road, she’ll be fine, and begins to wheel herself away, Fikus lets her go. And that’s the last time she is seen. Nearly everyone in town suspects or knows something different about what happened, if they could only put the pieces together. They also know a lot about each other. The immigrants who work in the dairy farm know their employers’ secrets. The manager of the Laundromat knows who laid a curse on the town and why. A soldier daydreaming of his hometown can see it more clearly than the people still there. And the police officer doesn’t realize how much he knows. They are all connected, in ways small and profound, open and secret.”
This is the first book that has made me cry in a very long time, and I loved every wet tear that streamed down my face.
The plot of this novel is fairly simple yet simultaneously complex in such a colourful way. It follows the individuals who live in the small town of Colliersville, Indiana. These characters range from a transgendered teenager to a gun barring proud American to a fouled mouth young girl who befriends her school bus driver. When Daisy Gonzalez goes missing, each member of this divided community reacts in their own unique way. In fact, each chapter changes perspectives between characters so the reader witnesses a first-hand account of about twenty characters inner thoughts and feelings, each one more different than the last.
I’m gonna be speaking quite a bit about all the characters because that’s what the heart of this book is. Every single character was so incredibly interesting, I was never bored while reading about any of their lives. They all had such distinct and colourful personalities that some writers struggle to create for only one character, not to mention a whole community of people. They were the kind of personalities that are probably lurking among your own very neighbourhood, the people you might run into on the streets or work at the corner store. Kennedy’s ability to accurately write from so many diverse perspectives, and get me to care about each character equally, is quite impressive.
The only thing that slightly threw me off was the sheer amount of characters. There were so many people to keep track off, so many storylines and connections between all the other characters that it was hard to follow. I constantly found myself thinking, “Wait, who’s this guy again? How does he know her?” Sometimes I even had to go back a few chapters to see if I could find some information about the current character. Overall, this is a miniscule complaint, because for the main part I could navigate everyone pretty well.
Tornado Weather also had a lot of topical themes, the main one being xenophobia against Mexicans in the small town in Colliersville, which probably reflects a lot of real towns in the Midwest U.S.A. With the current sitting president, it seems like these attitudes won’t be going away for awhile. The readers experience the point of view of those who dislike anyone who isn’t white, a trait that isn’t often portrayed in protagonists. It was a bold decision on behalf of the writer, and in my opinion, it paid off.
Moving on to perhaps my favourite part of this novel; the ending. The final chapter, eloquently titled ‘Reincarnation‘, is so beautifully written and awe-inspiring that it took my breath away. It touched my heartstrings in ways that I didn’t expect it would when I initially chose this book. Every loose end was tied up and explained, so I closed this no nagging questions in my mind. The tears started coming at this point, and it was the very last line that made the tears spill down my cheeks. The mood was tragically stunning, Kennedy somehow meshing two opposite emotions. When my friend asked me if it had a happy or sad ending, I honestly didn’t know. It was a fascinating mix of both, and all I can say is I was thoroughly satisfied.
I honestly wasn’t expecting much from this, mainly because the last few books I’ve picked up from the library weren’t spectacular. Although I was pleasantly surprised with the contents of Tornado Weather. It’s such an easy read, the words flowing along the paper and jumping out at you in the most impressionable ways. I think most demographics would enjoy this as a leisurely summer read, so I recommend this to anyone who can get their hands on it. And while you’re reading it, just keep in mind that no matter what happens, little Daisy Gonzalez will end up okay.