Friday, May 13, 2011
Pages: 336 (hardcover)
Published: March 2011; originally published 2010 in Australia
Recommended for: anyone up for an amazing, emotional contemporary roller coaster ride
The award-winning author of Finnikin of the Rock and Jellicoe Road pens a raw, compelling novel about a family’s hard-won healing on the other side of trauma.
Melina Marchetta reopens the story of the group of friends from her acclaimed novel Saving Francesca - but five years have passed, and now it’s Thomas Mackee who needs saving. After his favorite uncle was blown to bits on his way to work in a foreign city, Tom watched his family implode. He quit school and turned his back on his music and everyone that mattered, including the girl he can’t forget. Shooting for oblivion, he’s hit rock bottom, forced to live with his single, pregnant aunt, work at the Union pub with his former friends, and reckon with his grieving, alcoholic father. Tom’s in no shape to mend what’s broken. But what if no one else is either? An unflinching look at family, forgiveness, and the fierce inner workings of love and friendship, The Piper’s Son redefines what it means to go home again.
So... I've finished another Melina Marchetta book! It's become my goal to read all of her books by the end of summer. The Piper's Son picks up where Saving Francesca left off, though you definitely wouldn't have to have read Francesca to read this one-- the characters are the same people, but they have changed so drastically from one book to the next. Tom was a lovable if immature high school boy determined to be a great guitarist in the first book, and here he is a broken young man, wrestling with the problems of the family and friends he left by the wayside after the tragic death of his Uncle Joe-- a death which still haunts each member of the Mackee family in ways most of them are still too terrified to explore.
The book switches from the (third person) POVs of Tom and his aunt Georgie. Georgie is a thirty-something single lady pregnant with her ex-boyfriend's kid (the ex is still very much up for debate). She's at war with herself over her feelings for her ex, Sam, and like Tom, is having a hard time coping with Joe's death. Melina Marchetta writes with such striking rawness about human emotion-- with so much gritty truth that occasionally this book took a depressing turn as the characters did. But as always, there is so much hope and a number of laughs (Tom's friends kept ragging on him about how he cried when Frodo and Sam made their way to Mount Doom in The Return of the King movie-- I just wanted to sob 'me, too!').
I'm really enjoying reading books by Aussie authors set in Australia, though really life there isn't so drastically different from that of the US. I admit it's partly because of all that wondrous Aussie slang. For example, I never knew that 'footy' was Aussie short-slang for football (always thought it was a kind of baby shoe). And I'd never heard the word 'pashing' (means snogging, or making out) before reading this book. Ah, learn something new every day, right? ;)
I loved how Tom slowly realizes how much he needs his friends: Francesca, Justine, Jimmy, and the whole gang. And the emails Georgie sends to Joe's address-- never to be opened, of course-- were as heartrendingly honest as the emails Tom sends Tara, the girl who he thought he once thought he was in love with, are highly entertaining with their exchanges of sarcasm... as well as very telling about the strength of their relationship. Tara was one of my favorite characters from Saving Francesca, so I wish she'd had more of a physical presence (she was in Indonesia for mostly the entire book). But she was always right there with the gang, in a way-- in their constant texts and emails, and always in Tom's heart and mind. The Piper's Son is a beautifully written, heartfelt and very honest, down-to-earth novel.
Overall Rating: 5/5
*This book qualifies for the 2011 YA Aussie Reading Challenge*