Book Review – Ella Minnow Pea

Title: Ella Minnow Pea

Author: Mark Dunn

Format: Hardback

Year Published: 2001

Ella Minnow Pea is a book that takes place on the fictional island of Nollap, so named after the inventor of the widely-known sentence “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog” with the use of all the letters in the alphabet. The island has a statue of the writer, along with the alphabet and the phrase written on it. Then the unthinkable happens – one of the letters falls off, and the leadership of the town take it as a sign from the great Nollap that they should stop using that letter. Proclamations are distributed, and the rules are put into place. One slip-up, be it verbal or in writing, results in a verbal warning. Offense number two means you go either to the stocks or you get lashed. Offense number three? Banishment or death.

As more letters continue to fall, the town challenges their leadership: if they can come up with another sentence using all the letters of the alphabet, then the leadership will rescind their previous rulings.

The novel is told in epistolary fashion, which is apparently the one form of first-person POV that I like (there will a review of another novel coming soon that I also loved told that way). This presents a challenge, as the characters continue to lose letters and are forced to work around their loss in increasingly convoluted ways (this is definitely a wonderful novel for a wordsmith).

Although I loved the novel, there were parts of it where it felt like the author was deliberately making fun of those, like me, who have strong religious belief and who believe in living by faith. Although so many of the events that the leadership cling to are obviously outrageous, I can’t help but wonder if the author meant to have the reader question other beliefs that they hold that are not supported by fact.

5/5 stars. I fully intend to reread.

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