Get­ting to grips with grief

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - BOOKS - Dani Colvin

THIS is not a new re­lease but when I be­gan read­ing this book last year, I put it down af­ter only a few pages. I could not for the life of me see how this was go­ing to be some­thing I would want to read.

The many ac­co­lades it has gar­nered from adult crit­ics doesn’t mean it’s some­thing chil­dren would choose for them­selves.

Do they really want some­thing so con­fronting and ut­terly de­press­ing? How­ever, hav­ing read and very much en­joyed Pitcher’s ( pic­tured) sec­ond novel, Ketchup Clouds, I de­cided to give this, her de­but novel, an­other try. Winc­ing past the first few pages, then the first few chap­ters, I grad­u­ally be­came com­pletely ab­sorbed in this un­flinch­ing story of a fam­ily that falls to pieces af­ter a ter­ror­ist at­tack in Lon­don.

Five years af­ter the bomb that killed her, Rose’s par­ents have be­come so im­mersed in their grief that they can­not even see past it to their two sur­viv­ing chil­dren. Jas, Rose’s twin sis­ter, is com­pletely over­shad­owed by the false aura her par­ents have cre­ated around Rose, and 10- year- old Jamie barely re­mem­bers or misses her, but is ex­pected to be as racked by grief as his com­pletely non­func­tion­ing par­ents.

Pitcher ( pos­si­bly in­flu­enced by our own fab­u­lous Mor­ris Gleitz­man) uses dear lit­tle Jamie’s voice to tell the story and it’s an ugly one of racial ha­tred, all- con­sum­ing loss, ne­glect, and emo­tional and phys­i­cal aban­don­ment. But it’s also a story of love, courage and con­nec­tion, and some­where along the line, this tragic novel be­comes com­pelling, thought pro­vok­ing and deeply poignant.

And in the pages of this brave, in­sight­ful, pow­er­ful book, young peo­ple whose own ex­pe­ri­ences come close to Jas and Jamie’s may in­deed find com­fort in their sense of con­nec­tion with th­ese two truly beau­ti­ful, re­mark­able characters who have courage, emo­tional in­tel­li­gence and re­silience in spades.

Would make for a deeply en­gag­ing English cur­ricu­lum unit.

MY SIS­TER LIVES ON THE MAN­TEL­PIECE by Annabel Pitcher Orion, hard­cover, $ 24.99

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