4 out of 4 stars
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Andrea Cale’s The Corn Husk Experiment follows five very different characters: there’s Henry, a young boy bullied into shyness; Maxine, a photographer struggling with the loneliness she’s resigned herself to; Caroline, a dancer with a troubled past she never speaks of; JP, an athlete trying to find his own identity; and Devin, a young man trying to atone for the failures of his family. Despite their differences, they’re all facing the same battle – overcoming the conflict that defines them to break free of the limitations they’ve placed upon themselves.
The Corn Husk Experiment is a stunning debut and a wonderful piece of literary fiction, and I rate it 4 out of 4 stars.
I love books that let me see the world through the eyes of a character who is very different from myself, and on that front, The Corn Husk Experiment delivered five times over. The whole cast was relatable, and I had nothing but empathy for Henry’s embarrassment over his schoolmates’ teasing, and for Caroline’s secret guilt and the relief she found in dancing. Even their flaws were relatable – Maxine’s perfectionism, Devin’s arrogance – and those flaws made them even more three-dimensional and human.
Their individual journeys were crafted with just as much care. The narration is third-person omniscient, which means that you have a sort of birds’-eye view of the path each character takes through life and the multitude of factors and people that affect them. Not only do you get to learn about Henry’s personal history, for instance, but you get to learn about his mom, his now-absent father, his grandmother, and his favorite teacher. All of these stories come together to give you an incredible insight into Henry himself – and, of course, the other four main characters get the same treatment.
It would seem like there are far too many players to keep track of in this book, but Cale does a wonderful job of sketching all these interconnected lives in a way that gives just enough detail without overloading the reader. The result is that you feel as though you really know these wounded and lovable characters, and it makes their storylines carry even more emotional impact.
If I have one complaint about this novel, it’s about the title and synopsis. My first impression was that the characters were going to face an actual experiment – a trial of some sort – but that couldn’t be further from the plotline. The synopsis doesn’t do anything to clear up the confusion. The title does make sense once you get most of the way through the book (and it’s a lovely metaphor in that context), but I feel like it’s a little misleading.
That said, it didn’t bother me enough to stop me from enthusiastically recommending this well-written and uplifting novel to anyone who loves sinking into a really lovable character – or five.
The Corn Husk Experiment
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