Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Piper's Son, by Melina Marchetta: Down Under Down-to-Upper

The Piper's Son
Melina Marchetta (ARC - Official release March 2011).
Candlewick: Boston. ISBN 978-0-7636-4758-2

In this follow up to Saving Francesca, five years have passed since Thomas Mackee became friends with Frankie Spinelli and the other girls from St. Sebastians. Following the tragic death of his uncle in the London terrorist attacks and subsequent implosion of his family, Tom has grown apart from the group in a downward spiral of self-medication and self-loathing. Kicked out of his apartment, Tom moves in with his single, pregnant aunt Georgie, equally distraught over the death of her brother and fighting her own demons. Tom can’t forget his feelings for one of the girls in particular, or forgive himself for how he left things with her. But just as Tom starts to get back on his feet, working in a pub and playing music with his old friends, his alcoholic father returns and moves into Georgie’s too, and Tom and Georgie are forced to face some of their demons and try to move forward. This beautifully written story is much more adult than Marchetta’s earlier works, if only because our protagonists themselves are adults. Her themes of love, friendship, forgiveness, and recovery are prevalent but don’t feel forced. She has crafted a gorgeously tangible tragicomic world with realistically troubled but inherently lovable characters. Best for older teens and adults. Can be read as a stand-alone, but having read Saving Francesca makes the change in Tom all the more poignant.
And now I gush: This book is bloody brilliant. I mean, pretty much everything Melina Marchetta has written falls into the bloody brilliant family. But my gosh. It is gorgeous, filled with comedy, rage, fear, heartbreak, and ultimately love at the heart of it all. This story doesn’t feel phony or even plotted, nor do the personal tragedies large (London terrorist attack, Vietnam, cheating, out of wedlock kids) and small feel contrived as plot devices to make us emote. Rather, it’s as though these characters are really out there, wandering the streets of Sydney, pulling pints at the pub, playing music, taking their kids to the park, going grocery shopping. It makes my heart sing, and makes me want to call up my friends and tell them how wonderful they are, and then get them to read this book so we can talk about it. You might say I loved it, and you might be right. Fans of some of Marchetta’s earlier stuff will enjoy a squee-worthy shout out to a certain other book. I totally did a reading triple take, and then proceeded to giggle for about ten minutes. Loved it! There really isn’t much else to say, except please keep writing, Melina Marchetta. I will keep reading for as long as you keep writing. And then I will keep foisting your books off on others in the hopes that they will love your books as much as I do. It’s a win win for both of us! Also, if you come to Boston to promote this book, my fangirl heart may not survive the excitement. BUT DO IT ANYWAYS. I cannot wait to make this book a member of my super cool First Editions Shelf. March 2011, you cannot come soon enough!

* As an afterthought three days after writing this, I'd like to give some serious kudos to Melina Marchetta for what she's done here. As much as I love revisiting old characters, I'd rather revisit said old characters in a completely new context. Sure, it felt lovely that we get to know that Frankie & family are great, the girls are all doing well, and that the boys minus Trombal are not so great. Sad face. BUT. Well played on not rehashing every little thing, constructing a completely new story, showing that theirs is a friendship that lasts the test of time, and giving us even more closure. The only thing remaining unsorted is Jimmy Hallier. What's up with him? DO I SMELL A SEQUEL TO THE SEQUEL (pleaseohpleaseohplease?)??

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