Author: Annabel Pitcher
Publish date: August 14th 2012 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
My sister Rose lives on the mantelpiece. Well, some of her does. A collarbone, two ribs, a bit of skull, and a little toe.
To ten-year-old Jamie, his family has fallen apart because of the loss of someone he barely remembers: his sister Rose, who died five years ago in a terrorist bombing. To his father, life is impossible to make sense of when he lives in a world that could so cruelly take away a ten-year-old girl. To Rose’s surviving fifteen year old twin, Jas, everyday she lives in Rose’s ever present shadow, forever feeling the loss like a limb, but unable to be seen for herself alone.
Told with warmth and humor, this powerful novel is a sophisticated take on one family’s struggle to make sense of the loss that’s torn them apart… and their discovery of what it means to stay together.
My Sister Lives On the Mantelpiece was the Forever Young Adult book club pick for the month of November and I’m going to be upfront with you guys: I never would have picked it up otherwise.
I read so little middle grade and even less contemporary middle grade, and while I still can’t say that My Sister Lives On the Mantelpiece was my cup of tea, even I could see how perfectly Annabel Pitcher nailed the voice of her ten year-old main character, Jamie. My brief stint as a substitute teacher let me see writing samples from ten year-olds and yes, it’s a little more simplistic than the adult thought process, but it’s not dumbed down by any means. They can be very observant.
And at times, Jamie’s observations were a little horrifying. With a drunk racist for a father, and an absentee mother… frankly, the adults in this book made me a little doubtful about humanity.
I loved that the point of view Pitcher chose to take on this was Jamie’s. From someone who was closer to his sister, who was killed in the bombing, like her twin or a parent, the novel would have probably focused way more on the grief. With Jamie, it went back somewhat to that observing; how it affected everyone else affected him more than his own grief. Largely it was about a boy who just wanted to live a normal life.
But it was a little hard for me to get with the program and connect with Jamie. I couldn’t connect with him about grief that he didn’t feel, and though there was plenty more to be found in the book– friendship, sibling relationships, and comedic relief, the part that really struck home for me was when Jamie felt a different sort of grief, and was able to connect it to what his father felt.
The novel didn’t exactly end on a happy note, but it left off on a realistic note: one of hope.
To sum up: Not particularly my kind of book, but a quick and short read with a superbly authentic voice that pulled a range of emotions from me, from laughter to horror and sadness to hope.