companion novel to Saving Francesca
I can't even express how excited I was to get a chance to read this.
Thomas Mackee wants oblivion. Wants to forget parents who leave and friends he used to care about and a string of one-night stands, and favourite uncles being blown to smithereens on their way to work on the other side of the world.
But when his flatmates turn him out of the house, Tom moves in with his single, pregnant aunt, Georgie. And starts working at the Union pub with his former friends. And winds up living with his grieving father again. And remembers how he abandoned Tara Finke two years ago, after his uncle's death.
And in a year when everything's broken, Tom realises that his family and friends need him to help put the pieces back together as much as he needs them.
My Expectations: enormously high. It's MM, what did you expect?
Delivery: YES. Thank you, a book that finally blew me away, met and exceeded my expectations.
Put-down-ability: 3/10- read it in 2 sittings (darn you, school)
Let me start by saying, this book is one of the best books I’ve read this year, it is a Melina Marchetta treasure, and everything I hoped it would be and more. I went into it with exceedingly high expectations and it delivered time and time again, each time leaving a different emotional mark on me.
This book isn’t like Saving Francesca, although it skilfully pulls familiar characters back into the mix, showing glimpses of their lives and making you fall in love with them all over again. Francesca, Will, Justine, Luca, Tara, and a few others make appearances, each one having grown up but still really stayed true to their lovable selves. Fans of SF will enjoy this one. Also, this is a mature YA novel, Tom is 21, and yes, profanity is pretty darn abundant.
Georgie, Tom’s aunt has a story of her own: pregnant with her ex’s child and struggling to stay on her feet and hang on to her sanity (metaphorically), she tells her own story about righting her family’s ship with unconditional love and…feistiness. Somewhere along the way, she manages to find herself as well. Her ex, Sam, wasn’t exactly in my good books, I felt he deserved a lot worse.
The reason this novel worked so well is because of all the different levels of depth incorporated into the plot, characters, and writing. Just when you think you've got something figured out, the author adds an unexpected layer that just further enhances the story.
Tom’s relationship with his father, Dominic, is such a powerful theme in the novel, one that I felt was portrayed impeccably. The father and son’s intense, personal journeys were written phenomenally. The scene at the AA meeting had my eyes overflowing with tears, I won’t lie. And don’t think that there is only a few inter-family relationships in this book, the whole novel is made up of an intricate web of Finch-Mackees, each with their own niche in the family, and their own story to tell. Family is so important to both Tom and Georgie, and is explored from all angles—from pure love and devotion, to regret and indifference.
I will admit, I read this novel twice. The first for Tom, and the second for Georgie; I can’t remember the last book I read so diligently. Tom’s story is what really drew me in though, the way his life spiralled down after Uncle Joe’s death was…sad. It made me sad. But beneath Tom’s angry, tough exterior is a lost and mourning boy struggling with grief, who hangs on to the second chance offered to him by Georgie.
I absolutely adored Tom’s relationship with that psycho Tara Finke, how their history is revealed and how they mend and move on. Flashbacks, phone calls, texts, and emails work together to depict heart-warming moments after moments.
The text messages and emails exchanged between the characters added a modern, charming, and funny touch, effortlessly making me sniffle or giggle. The characters brought back from Saving Francesca don’t dominate the story, but each have their own spot and you can tell how much that year 11 had affected them. And thanks for bringing back Ben and the Mullet Brothers =)
Flawlessly written, Melina Marchetta weaves an enchanting, beautiful story filled with love, grief, family, friendships, and hope for two individuals who have lost the most important things in their lives. An outstanding effort once again, and further reinforces Marchetta as one of my all time favourite contemporary authors.
9.3/10 – tied for the highest score I’ve given a novel this year. Tom’s and Georgie’s growth through the novel is exceptionally well written, their storylines sure to burrow deep into a reader’s heart. I connected and sympathized with the characters right at the beginning, once again demonstrating Marchetta’s ability to draw a reader in with ease. The themes of family and friendship were just... perfect. I laughed, I cried, and I don’t have enough good things to say about this emotionally breathtaking book, except for READ IT
Not convinced? Read other reviews from: Persnickety Snark, Not Enough Bookshelves, Sassi Sam, The Unread Reader
Source: a million thanks to Penguin Australia for sending me a review copy.