by Athena Wintruba
In the words of native Inuit Sura, “There is a piece of truth in all stories. Including this one. Those pieces make stories magic…The pieces we choose to keep, to make our own, change us. They change the way we live and think, and what we believe… Whichever piece of truth you choose to remember will change how you hear the story.” Well, I can tell you that Beth Hautala’s Waiting for Unicorns will leave you changed too.
Twelve-year-old Talia Lea McQuinn and her mother shared stories of magic, fables, and folklore… until cancer brought those stories to a sudden halt. Just months after her mother’s death, Tal is torn from the only place she’s ever known in Woods Hole, Massachusetts and dragged across the Canadian border by her father who is researching beluga whales for the summer. As if she needs to worry about being attacked by polar bears or her father being crushed by melting ice flows while on a whale expedition!
Even though moving to Churchill, Manitoba meant parting with most everything familiar including their family home, Talia’s school before the year is even over, and the very truck that carried them across the border; there is one thing that Talia secretly carries with her: a jar of wishes. How could she bear to let go of that with two of her mother’s wishes inside? Especially since she knew that the most powerful wish granters of all, the unicorns whose powers transcend death, could be found by her father in the form of the unicorns of the sea: the one-tusked narwhal whale.
Sura, the Inuit woman Tal and her father are staying within Churchill, seems to know the girl’s plan and warns her against it. “Unicorns break your heart,” she said. However, when Tal’s father returns from his expedition reporting no belugas in sight, but a strange prevalence of narwhals, Talia can’t help but be filled with hope. Could her impossible wish really come true after all? Only readers of Beth Hautala’s Waiting for Unicorns know for certain.
The crinkles of the spine and the dog-eared pages of my copy prove that this has become one of my favorite books. Each time I re-read it, I hold my breath, now with the secret knowledge of what Tal will do when faced with the promise of unicorns. I couldn’t imagine a more perfect ending. But don’t worry, I’m not going to ruin it for you!