Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Goldengrove by Francine Prose

Thirteen-year-old Nico loses her sister Margaret, "the beautiful sister, willowy and blond. The lake breeze carried her perfect smell. She smelled like cookies baking". She realises what it means to the rest of this small town, that her perfect older sister is dead: "I was no longer Nico. I was the dead girl's sister".

Nico's parents are as affected as she is, although in different ways, and they are too distracted with their own grief to look out for Nico's:
"Margaret's death had shaken us, like three dice in a cup, and spilled us out with new faces in unrecognizablr combinations. We forgot how we used to live in our house, how we'd passed the time when we lived there. We could have been sea creatures stranded on the beach, puzzling over an empty shell that reminded us of the ocean."

This is a book about loss. It wasn't what I was expecting, as it was one of those 'huh, I've yet to read [insert author's name here], let's see how this one goes' book picks. But I don't regret this selection. Yes, it was not an easy read, no book about death and a family's grief will ever be an easy read, but it was moving and it was well-written and heartfelt. And I couldn't help but get caught up in the family's downward spiral, wondering how they would end up, wondering if they would ever survive it, wondering how Nico would do, and I found myself turning page after page, reading more than half the book in one night.

Prose's observations of how other people in the town were affected by Margaret's death were especially memorable, such as when Nico's former fourth-grade teacher comes for a visit:

"Pressing me to her pillowy chest, Mrs Atkins wept, and so did I. I knew she was crying about her mother and not about Margaret, or maybe a little about Margaret, but still, we were crying about the same thing."


Carrie said...

Huh. I've been looking for a book on sibling grief. I'm not sure I can read that now, but I am glad to know that it is out there.

For some good Francine Prose, read A Changed Man. I reviewed it here:
(I can't get the html to work for some reason.)

olduvai said...

Hey Carrie
Thanks for the link to your great review! Goldengrove was my first Francine Prose fiction, and I'm looking forward to reading more from her, so I'm definitely adding A Changed Man to my list.