Skellig manages to impart profound ideas on love, healing, and friendship in just a few pages. To say that it's pithy would be an understatement. I think that it's a beautiful work of fiction which young adults should read. It never becomes cheesy nor cloying in its overall feel of hopefulness.
We are introduced to Michael, who has moved to a new home with his family. Michael's baby sister has been in and out of the hospital, and the novel makes the reader feel that the baby's death is a possibility. One day, Michael ventures into the garage and discovers a being hidden amid the dust and forgotten objects stored in the garage.
Almond doesn't give a clear notion of what this being, named Skellig, actually is. Is he an angel? Is he half-bird or half-human? Its only request is that Michael keep Skellig's existence a secret. But how could Michael do such a thing when clearly Skellig needs serious help -- he has arthritis and all he has been eating are insects and mice brought by the owls.
Pretty soon, Michael becomes friends with Mina, his neighbor who is raised by a very unconventional mother. Mina's mother doesn't believe in organized education where children are stifled by the confines of the classroom. Mina thinks freely and appears to be more learned than children her own age. It's only a matter of time before Michael introduces her to Skellig. And they discover that Skellig has wings.
Together, Michael and Mina help make Skellig better (e.g., cod liver oil for his arthritis), even though they have doubts as to what he really is. One thing's for sure though, Skellig is a mystical creature. Skellig may have been instrumental in making Michael's baby sister well. Michael somehow sees or dreams Skellig visit his sister at the hospital, hold her up, and leave. Skellig is never seen again.
It's clear that Almond values the importance of familial love and connections between friends and other people. As a friend, Mina becomes the trigger for Michael to develop his artistic side. Michael's mother and father never waiver in their hope that their baby would get better. For himself, Michael realizes the true nature of love -- love for his family, his friends, and even for someone who doesn't appear to be lovable at first impressions. Yes, without his love for Skellig, the mysterious creature would simply languish in their house. Forgotten and hopeless.
Read this book if:
- You believe miracles do happen.
- You have a couple of hours to spare. (It's a short read!)
- You know someone who could be an angel.