Will Sparow's Road by Karen Cushman Book Review

Will Sparrow's Road by Karen Cushman

Will Sparrow is a liar and a thief, doing whatever it takes to get by. After his father sold him to the innkeeper for drink, Will stuck around, but when the innkeeper promises to sell him to a chimney sweep, Will escapes. Penniless, Will steals what he can and searches for his place in the world. Stumbling upon a country fair, Will takes up with an illusionist and then a sideshow entertainer. Young Will must learn that life can be deceiving and people doubly so.

I have always been a fan of Karen Cushman's novel, enjoying the historiography and true-to-their-time characters. Set in 1599, Will Sparrow's Road promised so much in the way of an Elizabethan world. Sadly, I did not feel like it delivered on that promise.

Will was a wholly unlikable child. He is a thief and a liar who swears that he will only look out for himself. He is also abominably naive and more than a little stupid. It isn't until almost the very end of the story that Will manages to get a clue and even then I don't have faith that he will grow up into an individual with good critical thinking skills.This is the core problem with the story, for, like all of Cushman's tales, this book is supposed to be character driven.

With such an unlikable character I kept wondering if Cushman was going to go with a different more plot-driven approach this time, but it soon became clear that Cushman just wanted to write about an Elizabethan Faire. You know, like the Renaissance Festivals we like to attend, although this one was supposed to be more historically accurate. The author wanted a story about a faire, so she created a character and inserted him into this setting with no clear direction and very little definable personality. Truth is, for all his "stealing" and "lies", Will is one terrible thief and liar so he isn't even what he says he is. The secondary characters were more interesting due to their disabilities, however, since the story is told from Will's naive and limited perspective, they came off as flat and annoying. I felt some sympathy for all the characters in the end, but was so frustrated by the lack of any decent plot that I didn't really care.