The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta

The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta

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.

Weekly Recap 1/30/11

Books read this week:

Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta – Have I mentioned how I am in love with MM’s writing? :) Review here (Aussie Challenge, Melina Marchetta Challenge, Realistic Fiction)

The Half-life of Planets by Emily Franklin and Brendan Halpin – I am kind of torn on this book.  On one hand, I really liked Hank.  His Asberger’s made him an interesting and honest character.  On the other hand, I didn’t like Liana much at all.  Her motivations didn’t make sense to me and I really didn’t understand her dad’s hypochondria or the resolution of that story line.  I really felt like Liana’s story was missing something that would have made me relate to her or have empathy for her, but I didn’t. (Romance)

Origins (The Vampire Diaries: Stefan’s Diaries, Bk 1) by L.J Smith, Kevin Williamson, Julie Plec – This was fun.  It was the story that is laid out on the show, so there weren’t any surprises.  I wish I knew who actually wrote the book.  It is actually listed as “based on the books by L.J. Smith and the show by Kevin Williamson and Julie Plec.”  The writing was definitely better than the original Vampire Diaries book I read last fall. (First in Series)

Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta

Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta

Description from Goodreads:

Francesca is stuck at St. Sebastians, a boys’ school that’s pretends it’s coed by giving the girls their own bathroom.  Her only female companions are an ultra-feminist, a rumored slut, and an an impossibly dorky accordion player.  The boys are no better, from Thomas who specializes in musical burping to Will, the perpetually frowning, smug moron that Francesca can’t seem to stop thinking about.

Then there’s Francesca’s mother, who always thinks she knows what’s best for Francesca—until she is suddenly stricken with acute depression, leaving Francesca lost, along, and without an inkling who she really is.  Simultaneously humorous, poignant, and impossible to put down, this is the story of a girl who must summon the strength to save her family, her social life and—hardest of all—herself.

Oh my goodness! I can’t even begin to describe how much I loved this book!  Seriously – I wish these characters were real so I could move to Australia and be friends with them.  The characters were just amazing and their story sucked me in.

I loved Francesca.  She was so realistic as a teenager trying to figure out who she is and where she fits.  I loved that she was pushed out of her comfort zone, forced to make friends with the girls and boys at St. Sebastian, and starts to discover that she likes it out in reality.  She was just a wonderful character that I laughed with, I cried with, and just wanted to be friends with.

I liked Francesca’s family, especially her relationship with her brother.  It was sweet.  For all her dad’s faults, he was trying to figure out how to help his wife and raise two kids.  His grocery shopping accomplishments made me laugh.  I liked Francesca’s childhood relationship with her mother and how being like her mother caused Francesca to learn about herself and grow throughout the book.  And of course, the extended family was great.  I have a big family, so I could see some of the people I’m related to in Francesca’s family.

The girls of St. Sebastian were loads of fun.  I liked that Siobhan, Tara, and Justine did stay in the stereotypes that they originally were in Francesca’s mind – the slut, the activist, and the nerd.  They were really well rounded, pretty normal teenagers.  I liked how much they believed in Francesca even when she didn’t realize it or understand it.

And finally the boys – Will, Thomas, and Jimmy.  Will I loved and hated.  He frustrated me, but I came to love him.  Jimmy was awesome!  I loved how he was completely comfortable in the Spinelli house and brought both Francesca and her mother out of their shells a little bit.  His banter with Francesca was hilarious.  And Thomas Mackee – yum!  I loved his bad boy attitude that didn’t stand the test of time.  I couldn’t help but laugh as he because friends with Francesca and her friends despite his best efforts.

I highly recommend this to anyone.  It was just amazing.  I can’t wait for The Piper’s Son to come out in March for more Thomas Mackee!

Read as part of the Aussie YA Challenge and my Melina Marchetta challenge.

Aussie YA Challenge 2011

So remember when I said I was going to do fewer challenges this year?  Clearly that is not true anymore! :)  I love challenges and can’t help but join, especially when it already fits well with my other reading plans for the year.

The 2011 Aussie Challenge is hosted by Irresistible Reads.   As an international participant, I am committing to reading 6 YA books by Australian authors, but will probably end up reading more.

Books Read:

  1. Will by Maria Boyd
  2. Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta
  3. The Ghosts of Ashbury High by Jaclyn Moriarty
  4. Pink by Lili Wilkinson
  5. The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta
  6. Beatle Meets Destiny by Gabrielle Williams
  7. Saltwater Moons by Julie Gittus
  8. Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley
  9. Good Oil by Laura Buzo
  10. Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta
  11. Fury by Shirley Marr

These are books I already own and will aim to read this year.  I am not committing to all of them, but as many as possible!

  1. Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta
  2. I Am The Messenger by Markus Zusak
  3. Getting the Girl by Markus Zusak
  4. A Little Wanting Song by Cath Crowley
  5. John Belushi is Dead by Kathy Charles
  6. Liar by Justine Larbalestier
  7. The Year Nick McGowan Came to Stay by Rebecca Sparrow
  8. Raw Blue by Kirsty Eagar
  9. Six Impossible Things by Fiona Wood

When I joined this challenge, I went through other participants’ lists to find other ideas I might want to read and I do have to say that is really frustrating that lots of Aussie books are hard to acquire in the US.  Amazon doesn’t have them at all.  Book Depository has a lot of the books listed, but they are out of stock.   I guess that’s a sign I don’t need to purchase more books!

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

“What do you want from me?” he asks. What I want from every person in my life, I want to tell him. More.

Abandoned by her mother on Jellicoe Road when she was eleven, Taylor Markham, now seventeen, is finally being confronted with her past. But as the reluctant leader of her boarding school dorm, there isn’t a lot of time for introspection. And while Hannah, the closest adult Taylor has to family, has disappeared, Jonah Griggs is back in town, moody stares and all.

In this absorbing story by Melina Marchetta, nothing is as it seems and every clue leads to more questions as Taylor tries to work out the connection between her mother dumping her, Hannah finding her then and her sudden departure now, a mysterious stranger who once whispered something in her ear, a boy in her dreams, five kids who lived on Jellicoe Road eighteen years ago, and the maddening and magnetic Jonah Griggs, who knows her better than she thinks he does. If Taylor can put together the pieces of her past, she might just be able to change her future.

This book was so good!  The two storylines were a little confusing at first, but it didn’t take that long for me to get into it.  Maybe 80 pages or so.  Once I was into it, there was no putting it down.

The characters in the book were so easy to fall in love with.  I loved Taylor so much.  She was strong yet vulnerable.  The other characters were so great – Griggs, Santangelo, Rafaela, Ben, Jessa – I grew to love them all!

The descriptions in the book were also fantastic.  I really felt like I was in a small town in Australia.  I kept thinking that the turf wars were silly and unimportant, but the more I read, the more I cared.  It was just that good.  I figured out pretty quickly how the stories connected, but the reveals were just beautiful.

The only thing that is keeping me from giving this book 5 stars is the disjointedness of the beginning.  I understand why it was like that, but it made it kind of hard to get started.