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Like many, I’m sure, with the trailer of Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children coming out, I found myself tickled by what this book could have held. For while I’ve seen it around for years, being that it had the oddest girl on the cover I thought it was something a bit too… peculiar. Now, though, being I’m more peculiar with each passing day, I decided to look into it and while it takes a few chapters to get to meet Ms. Peregrine, once you do, so begins the magic.
Chapter Summary (with Commentary)
Prologue: Meet Grandpa Abraham and Jacob
Unfortunately, all the prologue really provides is some background on Grandpa Abraham and Jacob. Going from the least information to the most, Jacob is 15, has both of his parents, and is part Polish. As for grandpa? He is old enough to have suffered the holocaust and to have lost his entire family in the process. Mind you, though, this story takes places somewhat in modern times so when grandpa experienced the holocaust he was about Jacob’s age, give or take a year. Something which becomes quite important for while they note grandpa knowing 4 languages, fighting in wars, traveling in a circus, as well as him knowing about guns, fighting, and living in Florida, as does Jacob, it is all about that 15th year. The one in which an orphaned boy got taken in, like many in his position, by women like Miss Peregrine.
Chapter 1: Grandpa’s Last Words – Jacob, Ricky, Dad and Mom
Almost as soon as we meet Grandpa he is gone, and I’m going to skip over a lot of the fat of the chapter since, honestly, I’m hoping it won’t matter in the future. So, to begin, Jacob lives somewhere close to Englewood, Florida and we learn his mom is rich, part of a family which owns a chain of markets; his dad is a moocher, who is a wannabe ornithologist (he likes to study birds) and has many unfinished books about nature; and grandpa Abraham is his dad’s father. Outside of those two, perhaps the only other person noteworthy is Ricky, Jacob’s possible only friend who looks like a punk redneck James Dean, but with green hair.
Now, despite Ricky’s rather small part, at least where I currently am in the book, the reason he matters is because he is with Jacob when Grandpa Abraham is discovered. You see, Jacob is called by his dad, who despite having no job doesn’t really take care of his father, and Ricky is the ride to grandpa’s house. As for why Jacob was called? Well with grandpa having early onsight dementia, and neither the dad or the mom wanting to be around a man who knows how to fight with weapons, better to send the kid who Grandpa Abraham took up a lot of time with. After all, he is the least likely to get hurt.
Which, by the way, I don’t say to make the parents seem like cowards. If anything, as the dad notes in later chapters and makes clear as he discards his father’s things, there were many obstacles in their relationship. So, with his son becoming close to him like he never did, and Jacob getting to learn what once seemed like a fictional account of his father’s past, to cover up the PTSD of the holocaust, perhaps it made poppa a little bitter.
Either way, Jacob and Ricky show up, can’t find grandpa in the house, but see this slice in a screen door. From there they head into the woods behind the house. Woods which aren’t huge mind you, they seem to be only big enough to separate one cul de sac from another, but thick enough where a flashlight isn’t necessarily going to be seen on the other side. There they find grandpa just hanging on after being attacked, with just a letter opener in hand. Then he says his last words dealing with a bird, September 3rd, 1940, Emerson, and a letter. All of which makes no sense and with seeing his grandpa die in front of him well, no one believes what Jacob says. Even Ricky who was right there.
Chapter 2: PTSD – Jacob, Ricky, Dad (Frank), and Mom
With Ricky being of no help, the cops certainly being of no help, for how he describes the would-be killer sounds too much like a fantasy creature, and his parents not that keen on defending him, it sends Jacob into a downward spiral. I mean, the boy has nightmares about what he saw, he ostracizes himself in a windowless room and he eventually is forced to go to therapy. Something which slightly helps, he learns he has Acute Stress Reaction, but with him pissing off Ricky with a joke about his mom, he finds himself alone and miserable.
Which neither parent truly helps with. They do, for the most part, try to leave him alone, but with them believing the whole “Feral Dogs Killed Your Grandpa” story; his dad having him empty his grandpa’s house, which his dad and aunt do so without much care; and then his mom throwing a 16th birthday party more so for the sake of having a party than for Jacob, you can tell that this boy, despite being born into a rich family, perhaps doesn’t have much personally going for him right now.
Yet, amongst his grandpa’s things, he finds a book, a Ralph Waldo Emmerson book, and in it is a letter. Said letter sets things in motion and while there seemingly may have been the small hiccup of Uncle Bobby, Mom’s brother who thought Jacob was going to work in his stores, once it seems he don’t want a crazy kid in his house, all that is left is Dr. Golan.
Oh yeah, Dr. Golan is Jacob’s shrink. Someone who seemingly is the right balance between Jacob’s mom and dad. He can be a bit, let the boy do as he wants, as Frank likes to be, but he does want some sort of direction, as the mom likes. So with Jacob talking about going to Wales, where the letter is postmarked from, the idea is originally met with skepticism until Dr. Golan supports it and Frank thinks of the birds. As for the mom, based off the way she talks, she is cool with three weeks without both of them. She feels like she has two children on her hands and with that you have to wonder what she sees in the dad to not divorce him? But this story isn’t about her, thank god, so we never learn about how the hell broke, and ain’t doing nothing with his life, Frank ended up with a woman who seemingly got money coming out of her ears.
We cling to our fairy tales until the price for believing them becomes too high.
— “Prologue.” Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
I fully recognize there is a need to build a foundation before you get to the interesting part, but I was struggling. Did I expect the peculiars to be seen right away? No. Yet, this usual, “my life was so dull and empty before I met you all” thing was making me question why this book was becoming a movie. I mean, the characters seemed lifeless, like cardboard cut outs, chess pieces put into place to present some type of challenge, but then you realize a drooling baby put them there at random. Thankfully it got better, but not really until chapter 4, if not 5.