Thursday, April 8, 2010

"Dark's Tale"

Deborah Grabien is a musician and the author of many adult novels. She lives in San Francisco with her husband, a fellow musician.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Dark's Tale, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Dark's Tale, my first YA novel, drops the reader in the middle of a clash between the San Francisco police and the Cores, the homeless kids living in Golden Gate Park. More on that in a moment:
That got my attention. I jerked my head toward the flashing lights and felt a tremor as the ground seemed to move under me. There were some heavy things running around down the street, people thudding their feet, more people joining in, more voices, some of them loud and weird, some of them obviously cops.

"Crazy-bad." Rattail shook his head. "They took something, you bet--stuff that makes them do things. Silly Cores. I wonder why they set their own stuff on fire, and rolled it away? I wouldn't do that if I was a Core, or had stuff. Let's go see."

Even in the few weeks I'd been in the park, I'd already become amazed at the way people don't seem to see the world around them. That night was a good example. By the time Rattail and I made it down to the edge of the trees by Marx Meadow, there were already about twenty of us there. At least five cars went by, slowing down to stare at the cops and the Cores. Not one of them seemed to notice the rest of us.

What really got me, though, was the rabbit.

He was the first rabbit I'd seen in the park, and I couldn't for the life of me figure out how he hadn't been eaten yet, or what he was even doing here. He didn't look like anyone's cute fluffy thing with soft ears. The garden next door to the house where the People had lived, there had been a rabbit hutch in their garden, with little pet rabbits. They'd look like stuffed toys, or blankets with feet. And they'd smelled like food.
I should probably point out here, that that last sentence makes more sense if you realise that Dark, the narrator, is an abandoned housecat. The Rattail she's watching with, her friend, is a raccoon.

Dark's Tale was written after ten years of working with the homeless cats in Golden Gate Park, every night, as part of the SPCA's TNR Program. Over the years, my husband and I have become essentially as invisible as the night-prowling animals themselves: neither the park police nor the homeless population pay us any mind. We feed the cats - and sometimes raccoons, mice, and skunks - under a blanket of darkness that's more than simply the night. Most people, driving through the park at night on their way home, are oblivious to the animal world around them.

The story is about trust, and survival: when, after being stripped of your reason to trust, can you believe what your instincts tell you? How, if you seem invisible, do you come to believe that you're real, that you matter, once again?

Hard questions, but I think Dark's Tale - based on a real cat we fed - takes a reasonable shot at showing the possibilities. Give it a read. Besides, don't you want to know more about that rabbit...?
Learn more about the book and author at Deborah Grabien's website.

Visit the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue