Book Review: The Murk

The Murk
By Robert Lettrick

If you read the Fug Girls, you know all about the scrolldown fug. If you don't read the Fug Girls, you should know that a scrolldown fug is when an outfit looks totally normal until you get to about the waist, where it switches to clown pants or carwash streamers or the dreaded tights-are-not-pants territory. What does this have to do with book recommendations? Well, The Murk by Roberty Lettrick is essentially the literary equivalent of the scrolldown fug.

It starts out normally enough. Piper, a tomboy-turned-pageant queen, is convinced that the cure to her baby sister's rare genetic disease is a plant hidden somewhere in the Okefenokee Swamp. Accompanied by her former best friend Tad (whose botanist ancestor perished on a similar search in the Okefenokee in the 1800s and who has a giant crush on his ex-best bud), her stowaway little brother, and a teenage swamp guide named Perch, Piper sets out to find the mysterious silver flower that is rumored to heal every malady. Perch cheerfully narrates the wonders of the Okefenokee to Piper and her companions (not to mention the reader) as they explore the swamp, tracing Cole's path through the wilderness. It's edu-tainment at its most palatable.

Then things get weird. Because the mythical plant isn't just real, it's sentient, with the power to hypnotize the gators, turtles, and other animal inhabitants of the swamp to do its bidding — and apparently its bidding is to make Piper and Company its dinner. (Oh, did I mention that the plant is carnivorous, too?) The second half of the book veers into a bizarre horror movie territory, with Piper escaping the burning digestive acids in the plant's giant stomach and fire-bombing the heart of the plant. Yeah. I know.

Usually, I'd skip reviewing a book like this simply because of the violence (which definitely gets a bit over-the-top), but I find myself with a soft spot for this book, despite its turn-for-the-weird. It's about the Okefenokee—one of Georgia's seven natural wonders—and the book does contain a wealth of information about one of our country's most famous swamps. And while the whole killer plant thing is pretty wacky, it does introduce some pretty interesting facts about botany. And honestly, it's so utterly odd that I want someone else to read it so its weirdness can be fully appreciated. So I say this is one to stalk at the library — worth checking out, though I'm not sure I'd want to allocate valuable shelf space for it in a permanent way. Though obviously, if you've had a hankering for a book about mind-controlling, carnivorous plants, you'll want to run, not walk, to pick this one up.