The Short Review: A beautiful novel; funny, sweet, sad, and worth every minute. If you liked the family dynamic of Swamplandia!, you might like this.
The Long Review: I loved this book. There's no but's, I just loved it...period. The story takes place in Alabama ( I grew up one state over, in Georgia), and I'm always a sucker for a southern novel. It's not one of those 'Southern-Gothic' novels, but southern in the way that To Kill A Mockingbird was. The narrator is this ten year old girl named Elvis, who, at the beginning of the novel, tells us that her mother sleepwalked into a lake and drowned. Throughout the book, she explores her grief and tries to understand the ways her father and sister are handling it, too. Hartnett is so breathtakingly honest about what grief looks like in different people, it's hard not to nod along and say, 'yep! That's about right.'
Although this book deals with a lot of heavy subject matter (death, mental illness, etc.) it's very funny. Elvis is so smart, but her emotional intelligence hasn't quite caught up with the rest of her. Because of that, she goes to these therapy sessions with this woman, Ms. Bernstein, who is as helpful as a mousetrap on your big toe. It's heartbreaking because Elvis wants help, but the cringe-worthy advice is hilarious. It makes you wonder why adults feel they have any authority over how to appropriately navigate such things as loss.
While I loved this book, it was hard for me. My step-brother drowned earlier this year, and there's something about seeing someone else living through an experience so close to yours, that really hits harder than expected. As I read this book, I wondered how many people lost someone they loved due to drowning. It doesn't seem like it would be one of the MOST common ways to die. It seems more preventable, which is something Elvis deals with in the story. It's something I've been dealing with, too. But, I think that's what's so beautiful about books like this. When they end up in the right hands, they can help you to feel a little less alone.
There are lots of things I want to mention about this book that is spoiler-filled, so I'll be putting those thoughts down below. If you've read this, please join in that discussion. If you haven't, I think this is a book for almost everyone. Anyway, that's my little review for today :)
Okay, guys. For those of you who've read this, here are the things I thought of while reading this book.
1.) Did anyone else expect Elvis' parents to have an open marriage? It was something I considered, just based on the way they spoke of Eva, the mother because she didn't seem like the kind of person who would be unfaithful.
2.) Did anyone else love Vanessa? I thought she was such a good friend for Lizzie, and that she meant well, despite being a compulsive liar.
3.) Did anyone else find the dad wearing Eva's lipstick to be super heartbreaking? I think any time someone uses a lost ones perfume, makeup, or wears their clothes that it's about the saddest thing on earth.
4.) I'm going to need us to give better help to grieving children than Ms. Bernstein. She was literally the most unhelpful person haha I thought of those 50's shrinks who were so bad at their job compared to now.
5.) There's a moment right early on when Lizzie asks Elvis how the first day at school was. I wondered if Lizzie, for a moment, felt like it was her place to ask Elvis these things now. I wondered if she felt like she was supposed to step up and mother Elvis. Just a thought.
6.) When Boomer died, I cried harder than anything. I just can't handle animals dying.
7.) I loved that animal Dr. and I'm so glad he wasn't a creep.
Anyway, those were my main thoughts while reading the book. If you guys have other thoughts, let's discuss! Comment down below :) Anyway, happy reading!