I first met Flannery of The Readventurer through Goodreads. I’d seen her awesome reviews floating around and immediately wanted to be friends with her. She actually wrote a lovely post about Melina Marchetta the other day together with her co-bloggers, Tatiana and Catie, which you can check out here. Here’s Flannery, talking about The Piper’s Son, the companion novel to Saving Francesca.
I’m a firm believer that the quality of a book is not to be judged solely on the skill of the writer to craft sentences and tightly plot a story. Of course those things matter to an extent, but to me the value of a book increases exponentially if those finely-tuned sentences make me, as a reader, feel something for the character or recollect a memory from my own life. How many times have I read a book where someone close to the main character dies? A staggering number of times, but very few of them have actually made me revisit the pain I felt of losing someone special. How many times have I read a book where someone falls for someone else? Likewise, a huge number, but rarely in a way that brings butterflies skittering around my stomach in remembrance. My favorite book by Melina Marchetta is The Piper’s Son because it does both. It achieves both of these feats and so much more. Here’s a picture I drew as a placeholder for my Jellicoe Road review on Goodreads because Marchetta has the ability to rip the heart out of your chest and then serve it back to you, bit by bit, and you’ll enjoy the process:
I think one of my favorite aspects of The Piper’s Son is the entire element of forgiveness, both in terms of family and friends. In the sickest of ways, it is those people who have the ability to hurt us the most but there are just some people you can never cut loose. Ever. I guess I see families (and friend groups, which are basically interchangeable with family to me) as a constant balancing act. At any given time, some people are completely stable, some are teetering, and others are holding on with the ends of their fingertips. As a friend and family member, I feel a duty to at least attempt to achieve equilibrium, whether or not that is possible. Young adult books always run the risk of glossing over actual emotional content — a friend will say something awful, the two characters stop talking, maybe a few jabs (verbal or physical) are exchanged, then they have a conversation and make up. Or hold the grudge forever. The Piper’s Son opens with Tom in the hospital. He hasn’t spoken to Francesca (from Saving Francesca) for ages but there she is, waiting for him when he awakens. The characters in TPS are angry for real reasons, they’re harboring so many emotions over events that happened in their lives and it all just feels so much more real than most YA books (or any books) I read. Marchetta writes this about Tom’s aunt Georgie, when she first sees him in the book: “[S]he’s walking across the road toward the house and there’s that look Tom’s become used to in his life with his aunt. It’s the unconditional love that flashes across someone’s face before they remember the shit.” (Loc. 189) Exactly. When I see my friends after some time has passed (years, in many instances) or I hear from my siblings, it’s the happy memories that come back first. The fun times. I can’t pretend I have as much drama going on in my life as the Finch and Mackee families do, but I’m sure it is a universal feeling. And a lot of those relationships are volatile at times, but would I be there for each and every one of them if they were in dire straits? I damn well better be, or I’m a lesser person than I think I am.
The US cover of The Piper’s Son makes me a little sad, not because it is an awful cover (it isn’t) but because the US publishers missed an opportunity to capture the image of loneliness (and perhaps despair) that is depicted so well on the Australian cover. I feel like this quote from the book, though it takes place in the evening, conveys the feeling present on the Aussie cover well: “Out here tonight, under the dullest of moons, Tom feels as if he’s the last man on earth. Six blocks east form the home he grew up in. Three blocks south from the university he dropped out of a year ago. Four blocks north of the bed he shared with Tara Finke that last night together when life made sense for one proverbial minute, before everything blew up.” (Loc. 109)
Since I have neither the US cover nor the Aussie cover, this is how I reread about Tom and company:
I’m always worried that, upon rereading, a book won’t live up to the huge expectations my memory has built up for it over time. It sounds so cliché to say so, but I think my heart fell into its groove almost right away, maybe even on page one. They were all there—all the characters I love to love, from Georgie to Dom to Anabel. I know the fan favorite will always be Jellicoe. But if you’re looking for me, I’ll just be over there, chillin’ with the Mackees and Tom’s friends. They’re a messed up bunch for sure, but the foundations of their family and friendship are solid and I’m not going to find a more caring bunch of characters anywhere.
Thank you, Chachic, for giving me a reason to reread and reaffirm my love for The Piper’s Son. And because I said I would, here’s another picture, drawn just for the occasion. I’m not sure how familiar people in other countries are with the March Madness brackets for the US college basketball tournaments. I won’t go into it because I completely disregard how they work in my fake brackets for who would win a battle of contemporary YA authors:
As you can see, Melina Marchetta isn’t even participating in the early rounds, she just comes in to accept her prize at the end. It’s just as well. I love every author in those brackets but too many of my favorite books are written by one person.
Seize The Day,
Thank you, Flann, for coming up with a guest post for my other favorite Marchetta! Love those illustrations and I totally agree with your brackets – Melina Marchetta will always come out as the winner.
Check out these Marchetta Madness posts in other blogs:
Alex talks about Marchetta’s secondary characters over at A Girl, Books and Other Things