The Piper’s Son (by Melina Marchetta)

13 10 2012

The Piper’s Son, published in 2010, is a sort of companion/follow up novel to Melina Marchetta’s Saving Francesca (2003). It features characters which also appeared in Saving Francesca and even though it’s not an absolute requirement that you have read it too, it might help to get some of the back story of some characters in The Piper’s Son.

The Piper’s Son is set 5 years after the events in Saving Francesca and Marchetta has made Tom Mackee  (who “want[s]  to be the first male in the Mackee family to reach 40 and still have a liver) and his aunt Georgie the focus of this razor-sharp, character-driven literary tour de force.  Tom Mackee has reached rock bottom.  It’s two years after his uncle Joe got blown to bits in a London tube station and he also lost the girl he had a one-and-a-half-night-stand with (Tara Finke). Tom is angry, Tom is sad, Tom is lonely, Tom’s an asshole. Tom is everything you don’t wish your friend, brother or dearest to be. He is completely broken and it doesn’t look like he wants to get fixed or healed, and it doesn’t really look like he can. After pretty much getting kicked out of his apartment, he moves back in with his aunt Georgie, who has her own set of problems: pregnant by her ex-boyfriend of 7 years, Sam, she doesn’t only have to deal with the fact that she’s 42 and pregnant for the first time, she also has to relive all the complicated emotions of anger and confusion she felt all those years ago after Sam’s betrayal (he got a kid, Callum, with another woman). On top of that there’s her family (both the living and the dead members of it) to deal with. Tom, of course, but also her alcoholic brother Dom who left his own family, but wants to get back in. Both Tom and Georgie suffer from the stubbornness that is a key Mackee-Finch family trait and that now also threatens to be the main obstacle for any possibility to recover from their past and their grief.

Although The Piper’s Son starts out as a tragedy full of heartache, it’s also an incredibly warm family portrait that is described with such raw honesty and intensity, that it will make you sad when you have to leave the family at the end of the book. There’s nothing dysfunctional about this family or about this bunch of friends: this is exactly the way families with a past interact or friends with history relate to one another. This is how they function, and this is what they have to get through to get closure and a future. And although there is so much bleakness, self-destructive behavior and drama in these characters’ lives, there’s also humor, and there are these great lifelike scenes, emails and conversations (the dialogue is absolutely outstanding!) in the book that will make you smile and laugh and wish you could have been there with them.

If there’s any author that can convince even the most reluctant and skeptic of adult that YA is more than “books for kids”, and is proper Literature with a capital L, then it’s Melina Marchetta. If you still think otherwise after reading The Piper’s Son, then you’re either  a) one of those old white men who decides what people should read or b) a complete nitwit, or (the cat’s favorite) c) a total doofushead.  You’re beyond saving.

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22 12 2012
The 12 of 2012! « Ringo the Cat's Blog

[…] The Piper’s Son (Melina Marchetta) […]

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