Dot to Dot, by Kit Bakke (2011, YA, CreateSpace, 185 pages)
Here's a rather different Timeslip Tuesday, in which the time travel element is really truly a slip more than a travel!
Dot (short for Dorothy Mary-Jane) witnessed her mother being horribly killed by the rear view mirror of a bus. Still in shock, she is dragged unwillingly off to England by her eccentric aunt. There her aunt plans to scatter her mother's ashes, while making a literary pilgrimage to the places associated with the three famous women for whom Dot is named--Dorothy Wordsworth, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Jane Austin. Over the course of their journey, Dot begins to recover from the worst of her grief, finding comfort in utterly unexpected meetings along the way.
Time allows itself to slip a little for Dot, allowing her to actually encounter her three namesakes. They aren't ghosts, but presences who speak to Dot, and each other. And as Dot learns more about them, both through their own words and through the background of her travels and her aunt's commentary, she is inspired by their lives, and reassured that, through her names and the qualities they represent, she will have part of her mother's love with her forever.
Dot's journey through England is by no means entirely taken up with visits from her namesakes. Throughout the story, her grief is front and central. Her Aunt Tab, a virtual stranger to her, seems grating and strange, and Dot can't imagine staying with her. Then there's Nick, the annoying English boy who was incredibly rude to Dot on the airplane, who turns up again in the Lake District....a boy who offers Dot a chance to escape, if she wants to take it....
It's an intriguing story, and Dot's grief is made beautifully real--there's no quick fix, but a slow progress up from utter blackness. The difficult relationship between Dot and her aunt was also well done. The only aspect of the book that didn't ring at all true for me was the reintroduction of Nick--he always seemed to me external to the story at hand, and I could have done without him.
The timeslip encounters add mystery and atmosphere, as well as food for thought. They are rather strange, and never explained--in my mind, there's no need for them to be, but some readers might find that jarring. And there might also be readers with little patience for frequent disquisitions about 18th and early 19th century writers, although I was interested.
And as soon as the trio of deceased women writers appeared to Dot in a London teashop, I knew I wanted to include this in my Timeslip Tuesday series. But it's a rather odd sort of time travel--people from the past are interacting, but they are not coming to the present, exactly, nor is Dot going to the past....so I asked the author what she thought about the type of timeslippiness she has created! Here's what she replied:
"Time for me isn't a linear thing. Nor is it like space where you can't be in
two places at the same time--except for electrons, which apparently can be
in two places at the same time, which just shows that time is far more
flexible than we usually think.
It isn't like there's a past, and then a full-stop, and then there's now,
and then there's the future. It's a more recursive phenomenon. Kind of like
multiple universes or parallel realities--all times are present all the
time. You just have to know how to navigate among them, how to find the
slip-doors or wormholes or whatever you want to call the places where the
boundaries thin and dissolve.
The past is always so present in the present. It's like the elephant in the
room. Unavoidable. Not to everyone, of course, but to the lucky ones, the
thoughtful ones. Dot is one of those.
Our lives can be so incredibly enriched by being able to access those doors
into the past, and they are so narrow without it. Think of how many more
friends and teachers you can have when you can pick them from the past as
well as the present. My first book, MISS ALCOTT'S E-MAIL is about my
epistolary friendship with Louisa May Alcott. She was such a terrific person
and I learned so much from her--the book tries to pull her into the 21st
century so everyone can get to know her better.
There is a small body of fiction that brings historical characters from
different eras together to converse on common issues, or to be involved in
particular plots. It's an enticing approach--wouldn't we all love to
eavesdrop on Rembrandt talking to Picasso or Thomas Jefferson having coffee
with Socrates or Cleopatra chatting with Queen Victoria?
I think I'm wandering a bit here--jet lag...I guess the bottom line is that
it's fun to think of the present as being thick with the past--the
opportunities for interaction and learning grow exponentially. What
fictional character, like Dot, could turn that down? For that matter, what
reader would turn it down?"
Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts, Kit! The type of "time travel" you are writing isn't done much at all for younger readers, and it was a pleasure to read your book! And I also am inspired to someday, when my current to be read pile has diminished, to seek out Frankenstein-Dot's own reading of this while traveling through England makes it sound much for fascinating than I've ever given it credit for.
(disclaimer: received from the author)