Summary: After the sudden death of her beloved older sister, thirteen-year-old Nico finds her life on New England's idyllic Mirror Lake irrevocably altered. Left alone to grope toward understanding, she falls into a seductive, dangerous relationship with her sister's boyfriend. Over one haunted summer, Nico faces that life-changing moment when children realize their parents can no longer help them as she experiences the mystery of loss and recovery. Still, for all the darkness at its heart, Goldengrove is radiant with the lightness of summer and charged by the restless sexual tension of adolescence. -- Harper Perennial
I wasn't sure what to expect when I picked up GOLDENGROVE by Francine Prose. I thought the description of the book sounded like one that I'd enjoy because I am always drawn to books about teenage girls; however, I had absolutely no idea how much I would adore this novel and Ms. Prose's writing style. This novel captivated me from the very start, and I really didn't want the story to end.
GOLDENGROVE isn't a very long novel (less than 300 pages) but it sure did pack a powerful punch for me. I actually read it in two sittings -- one half before bedtime and the other half the next morning after I put my daughter on the bus. I literally could not put the book down. What struck me as a little odd about my "need" to read this book is that the subject matter was extremely depressing. At times, this story broke my heart and brought tears to my eyes. The author had a very special way of writing this novel that just lured me in and immediately made me feel a closeness to the character of Nico.
There are so many wonderful things about this novel -- from the story to the character development to the writing! But I think I was most impressed with how much this book affected me. I think that's a definite credit to Ms. Prose. She created such memorable characters who were all in so much pain because of the loss of Margaret. I am just blown away by how real their grief seemed to me. I haven't dealt with a loss this intense in my lifetime; but as I read this book, I could truly understand each character's actions and how they handled his or her own grief.
While I appreciated all of the characters' reactions to Margaret's death, I absolutely adored the 13 year old Nico. As if being a young teenager isn't difficult enough, she was actually with Margaret when she died. Of course, she was experiencing guilt as well as the loss of her sister; and her parents became distracted as they dealt with their own grief. The only person Nico felt a closeness to was her sister's boyfriend Aaron; and she felt she had to keep their relationship a secret because her parents didn't like him. My heart broke over and over again for Nico as she tried to deal with so many of her own conflicting feelings as well as the absence of those she loved the most.
Prior to reading GOLDENGROVE, I was not familiar with any of Ms. Prose's books. I was aware that she was an award winning writer; but for some reason, I had never picked up one of her novels. I can honestly say that I've been missing out on an amazingly talented author. I am so glad that Ms. Prose has written 15 other novels because I will certainly be looking forward to reading them. I just love discovering a new-to-me writer. (And how cool is it that her last name is Prose and she's a writer? -- I couldn't resist!)
I actually decided to read this book because Book Club Girl is hosting a BlogTalk Radio Show with Ms. Prose tomorrow night, and I love participating in these interviews. I always think I gain a new appreciation for the novel after hearing the author speak. After completing GOLDENGROVE, I cannot wait to listen to Ms. Prose discuss her writing and inspiration behind the story. The show takes place tomorrow night, September 24th, at 7:00 p.m. EST. I have a feeling that it's going to be a very interesting show.
I can't recommend this book enough for a future book club selection. There is a reading guide available with extremely deep and thought-provoking questions. While this book naturally shows the effects that grief and loss have on a family, it also delves into other topics such as physical an emotional pain, parent/child relationships, sisterhood, and healing. In addition, there is so much to explore pertaining to Nico and her relationships with others -- especially her sister's boyfriend Aaron. I think book clubs could talk about this novel for hours!
Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy of this novel.