Chrissy Oropeza's Reviews > Goldengrove

Goldengrove by Francine Prose
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Oct 28, 2011

Chrissy Oropeza
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Goldengrove is a fictional novel written by Francine Prose in 2008. The book was published by HarperCollings Publishers in New York, NY. Prose prologues this story with a poem written by Gerald Manley Hopkins entitled, "Spring and Fall: To a Young Child." From this piece of poetry, Prose gets the name of one of the main characters, Margaret; also, the name of the family bookstore, Goldengrove. The poem opens the novel with a sense of grief and mortality.

In the opening chapter, a relationship is presented between two sisters: Nico and Margaret. There is instant foreshadowing of loss as the narrator, Nico, explains, "Our years of bad luck begin" (1). Nico describes the differences between them: "[She] wished [she] could have been like [Margaret] instead of the kind of person who said, 'Don't you ever worry about the polar ice caps melting?'" (3). Nico is a very cynical and scientific; her and her dad were the "thinkers" in the family (6). However, Margaret and her dad were the "beauties" (6). Margaret loved and collected old things-"films, jazz songs, vintage postcards, and clothes" (6); she also had a boyfriend: "Margaret was the singer, Aaron the artist. They were the glamour couple…" (10). Despite their differences, there is an apparent love and friendship between the sisters. Nico idolizes her sister. They spend time together throughout the first chapter and the reader adores their relationship.

The second chapter opens with the hook- Margaret's disappearance. She jumped into the lake from the boat that she had been in with Nico and after that no one could find her. The remainder of the story follows Nico, her parents, and Aaron as they deal with their grief over the loss of Margaret. Not much is said; it is rare that the three of them talk. They dictate with action. Nico's father cooked well and often, but "everything tasted like styrofoam" (29). The grief had stolen their appetite. It had also stolen their rest; Nico claims that "insomnia was [their] language" (36). They suffer from disorientation: Nico "finds [herself] pointing the mobile phone at the TV" and avoided hanging out with her friends (38). The chapters following Margaret's death are filled with sadness; the family remains in a continual state of grief.

Nico eventually takes a job at her dad's bookstore, Goldengrove and begins spending time with Margaret's boyfriend, Aaron, and things escalade to what Nico explains should be called "ordinary love" (135). With her lack of appetite, Nico had lost weight, and looked more like Margaret than she had thought possible; she "looked in the mirror and saw Margaret" (58). There are continual parallels between her relationship with Aaron and her sisters. Later in the chapters, Aaron offers her perfume that smells like her sister, explaining, "it's the kind your sister used" (151). Elaine-a girl who worked for Nico's father and becomes a friend to Nico- points out the relationship between Aaron and Nico. She says that Aaron is "way out of line" ( 229). Nico acknowledges that, "what he really wanted was for me to be margaret" " (229). This relationship ends as expected.

The novel, in my opinion, drags a bit. The story leaves the reader with a sense of overwhelming grief and depression. The plot seems to never pick up pace; it carries a steady rate. The characters are well developed though; through backstory and action, they are easy to relate to.


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