As I read Girl in Landscape I wasn’t exactly sure what to make of it. I was enjoying myself while reading it, but I didn’t know what the destination was. And, I don’t think that feeling ever went away, but I kind of like that. There really never was an endpoint. Girl in Landscape is a snapshot of a point in time on the frontier. That frontier just happens to be on another planet.
Girl in Landscape follows the Marsh family, Pella Marsh in particular, as they move from Brooklyn, New York to a place called The Planet of the Archbuilders. The planet seems to be a relic of a civilization that has since moved on from it. There are remnants of the civilization such as crumbling buildings and towers. But there are also left over Archbuilders too. They have names such as Truth Renowned, Hiding Kneel, and Gelatinous Stand.
We follow the Marsh’s as they set out on this journey to sort of colonize this new settlement on the planet. This unknown frontier feels very much like something from the wild west United States. Each of the Marsh’s are mourning a loss in a different way and seeking escape out in this new world.
When I say that there isn’t ever a destination in the story, I say that because there really never is an overarching plot point other than how these people are dealing with loss and how they are trying to build this community. There really isn’t ever a huge conflict other than one’s you might expect when a new settlement is trying to be formed. I don’t really look at that as a bad thing when it comes to this book, though. I very much enjoyed living in these people’s lives as they navigate their feelings and the relationships they have with the other colonists.
It honestly wasn’t until the last 3 pages that it just kind of clicked with me that there never needed to be anything more in the book other than just hitching a ride on these characters’ backs and see where it goes. This is very much a western genre book with a science-fiction backdrop and I love that about it. In fact, if there weren’t Archbuilders or creatures called “household deer” then you would never know it wasn’t a western.
Plot: Like I said before, I would call the plot “light”. If I’m remembering the difference between story and plot correctly then I would say the plot is light and the story is heavier. If you were to jot down the plot points it may seem like not much happens in the story, but the story is more about internal battles and outward struggles. I really enjoyed it.
Characters: You mostly follow around Pella Marsh who is around 13 years old. You also follow around her brothers and the other kids that are in the settlement. Pella is a really great character that Lethem wrote really well. I could really feel that she was too old for the young kids, but sometimes too young to be taken seriously by the adults. I like how Lethem worked that stuff into the story and how that made her feel.
Overall Score: 8/10
I really enjoyed Lethem’s writing style. It was all substance and no fluff. If you recommend anymore of his stuff let me know!
Thanks for reading!