Bucket's Reviews > Goldengrove

Goldengrove by Francine Prose
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Apr 01, 09

bookshelves: reviewed, bildungsroman, child-narrator, identity, life-and-death, music, love, science, literary
Read in March, 2009

** spoiler alert ** Nico's sister Margaret dies very suddenly (drowns in the lake by their home) and Nico goes through an extremely difficult summer trying to deal with the loss. Her once close-knit family nearly falls apart with the grief - mom gets addicted to prescription pain medication and dad buries himself in the book he's writing. Nico begins spending time with Margaret's boyfriend, Aaron, who is also grief-stricken. They heal each other, in a sense, by doing together the things they used to do with Margaret. Eventually, though, it becomes clear to Nico that Aaron wants her to become Margaret (asks her to wear Margaret's clothes, perfume, etc...) and this culminates in him practically force-feeding Nico pistachio ice cream (Margaret's favorite) and then kissing her (harder and harder). The end of the story runs through the rest of Nico's life very quickly - grown up with children, seeing a painting of a lake on vacation that brings her back.

Themes: Death, grief, children dealing with death, family and what tears it apart and holds it together, art (music, visual, film) - lots of references to old films and music, end of the world (dad's book and global warming), creative vs. scientific personalities, how a smart 13-year-old sees the world

This was an extremely quick read (I read it in two days - weekdays!) and I really enjoyed it. Nico was a wonderful character - quirky and interesting. Margaret, of course, felt larger than life through Nico's eyes. Sometimes I did wonder if Nico's voice really seemed like a 13-year-old girl. Sometimes it did, sometimes not. I loved her perspective though, even if I often felt she was 16 or 17. Her grief and healing process (as well as that of Aaron, her mom, and her dad) felt very real until the end. It seemed unrealistic that everything just 'got better.' Mom quit the drugs, dad published the book, Nico started living again. Everyone but Aaron turned out alright and maybe he did too - we don't see. I didn't really like how the book runs quickly through the rest of Nico's life at the end. It was good to see that she lived her life well and normally, but it didn't do much for the story and seemed rushed.
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