Getting to grips with grief
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