Novelist and poet Michael Cadnum entered the field of young-adult fiction in 1991 with CALLING HOME, the suspenseful story of a teenager who accidentally kills his best friend, then impersonates him in a series of phone calls to the dead boy’s parents. Since then he’s often focused on historical themes and received a National Book Award nomination for THE BOOK OF THE LION, a story about the crusades. Although I admire Cadnum’s historical works, my very favorites are his contemporary suspense novels which feature unreliable narrators and are written in the kind of elliptical prose that always keeps the reader on edge, never quite knowing what to think. I remember almost gasping at the revelation toward the end of TAKING IT -- which suddenly put the entire novel into perspective. And I still think there is something hidden in the narrative of ZERO AT THE BONE which, if I just read the book one more time, would provide a clue to solving the novel’s central mystery.
As soon as I see a new Cadnum novel on the bookstore shelves, I immediately grab it and turn to the dedication page. Every one of them seems to be dedicated to Sherina. And Sherina turns out to be his wife. The things a husband says to his wife are generally considered private, but printing them on the dedication page of a book pretty much makes them public. So I’m always fascinated to read each new dedication. I don’t always understand them, but the words are pure poetry.
Here are a handful from books I have in front of me:
“For Sherina: Tide so high our boats part the treetops.” (from THE LEOPARD SWORD)
“For Sherina: Even with my eyes closed: the tree so full of birds.” (from ZERO AT THE BONE)
“For Sherina: Each dawn against the current they sail the white river.” (from THE BOOK OF THE LION)
“For Sherina: One deer-print beside the shivering pool.” (from STARFALL)
“For Sherina: Quietly -- there are doves.” (from TAKING IT)
“For Sherina: A spider in the rain -- so still.” (from RUNDOWN)
“For Sherina: Spring so early / swallows are a dream.” (from EDGE)
“For Sherina : Cold enough / to write your name / on the glass.” (from BLOOD GOLD)
Is each dedication a separate epigram, or are they all part of a longer poem? I don’t know. All I know is that I look forward to reading each new Michael Cadnum book -- and, with each new volume, eavesdropping on his romance with Sherina.