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.
Award-winning author 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.
This book. Wow. I don’t even know where to begin. It was so beautiful and so broken. Just wonderful. I’m totally gushing, but I can’t help it. :) It was just that good. This is the story of a broken family and a broken boy. Their story of healing is so real. It isn’t trite. There are no easy answers and everyone’s reactions (or non-reactions) are completely believable. Other reviews I read described this as an emotional roller coaster and that is the best way to say it. I laughed a lot and I cried at really inopportune times, like in the cafeteria at work and in the stands of a baseball game during a rain out.
Since Saving Francesca, Tom’s world has fallen apart. His beloved uncle is dead, his father is an alcoholic that has disappeared, his mother has moved away with his sister, his tight knit extended family is estranged, he ruined his relationship with Tara Finke, and he has pushed away all his friends. Tom has hit rock bottom, and there’s no where to go but up. I love that he doesn’t make the decision to pull himself back together. He actually kind of fights it, but it just happens to him slowly as the book progresses. There were times I wanted to slap him and times I just wanted to give him a hug and tell him that everything will be okay eventually. I loved that he started reconnecting with Frankie and Justine at the pub and slowly but surely the relationship he had with them in Saving Francesca began to creep back out. Tom and Tara’s relationship was frustrating, but I loved that it moved slowly. It was so realistic that they didn’t just come straight back together. Brilliant.
This book really could have been just about Tom, but I loved that it was about his family and their road to healing from tragedy. Aunt Georgie was amazing. Not only was she dealing with the loss of her brother, but she was also dealing with her emotions with Sam. I think the things that happened in the past with Sam helped her deal with Dominic and Tom. She understands how you can lose someone without losing them the way they lost Joe, and she doesn’t want that for Dominic and Tom. She wants to push them back together, but knows that that isn’t the best thing to do, just like she and Sam have to work through the emotions to figure out what their relationship is. The entire family is a mess with people not being honest with each other and skirting around the truth and not sharing their hurt. I know I keep saying this, but it just felt so real. I sometimes forgot I was reading about fictional characters. I liked that the end doesn’t just tie everything up in a bow. The foundation is laid for everyone to be in a better place, but the end of the book isn’t the end of the family’s healing.
Overall, this book skirted the edge of YA. It was a very adult book, but still one that I think young adults would understand. This is also the first book in a while that has taken me a full week to read. I usually fly through books, especially those I love, but I am glad my schedule this week made me slow down and savor this book. I can’t wait to read the rest of Melina Marchetta’s books, though I think I will be sad when I reach the end of them!
Read as part of the Aussie YA Challenge and my Melina Marchetta challenge.