Thursday, November 1, 2012

Review: My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece (Audio)

Summary: My sister Rose lives on the mantelpiece.
Well, some of her does.
A collarbone, two ribs, a bit of skull, and a little toe.

To ten-year-old Jamie, his family has fallen apart because of the loss of someone he barely remembers: his sister Rose, who died five years ago in a terrorist bombing. To his father, life is impossible to make sense of when he lives in a world that could so cruelly take away a ten-year-old girl. To Rose's surviving fifteen year old twin, Jas, everyday she lives in Rose's ever present shadow, forever feeling the loss like a limb, but unable to be seen for herself alone.

Told with warmth and humor, this powerful story is a sophisticated take on one family's struggle to make sense of the loss that's torn them apart... and their discovery of what it means to stay together. -- Hachette Audio

When I began listening to MY SISTER LIVES ON THE MANTELPIECE by Annabel Pitcher, I had absolutely no idea how much I would come to love this book. I admit that I'm still not a huge fan of audio books, although they have grown on me over the past year or so; however, I adored this novel! In fact, I actually couldn't wait for my morning run so I could get back to the story; and I even found myself squeezing in a few minutes here and there because I was enjoying it so much.

MY SISTER LIVES ON THE MANTELPIECE is ten year old Jamie's story about what happens after the death of his sister Rose. Rose was killed five years ago by terrorists, and Jamie doesn't even really remember her very well. All he knows is that he is supposed to be very, very sad about her death -- just like the rest of the family. Needless to say, everyone in the family has had a difficult time finding a sense of normalcy after the loss of Rose. Jamie's mother left the family for another man and his dad drinks way too much; and Rose's twin Jas is having her own issues living in the shadow of a "perfect" child.

After reading my brief description of the book, you are probably wondering how I could say I enjoyed it so much when the subject matter is rather depressing. Or, how I managed to workout to such a sad story? I agree that MY SISTER LIVES ON THE MANTELPIECE does deal with some extremely serious issues about a family in incredible pain; however, for the most part, I didn't find this novel to be terribly dark -- although I did tear up a time or two. Rather it was a story filled with love and hope; and it actually lifted me up each day as I listened to it.

There are so many wonderful things about MY SISTER LIVES ON THE MANTELPIECE, but a few really stood out to me. First and foremost was the character of Jamie. Jamie narrated this story and I loved his insight into his life. Despite being only ten years old and kind of innocent, he was amazingly in-tune with the family dynamics as well as his sister and father's feelings. In addition, I loved how resilient he was when facing all of the disappointments in his life. Jamie just seemed to bounce back again and again, and he always managed to stay relatively upbeat and give people the benefit of the doubt.

Jamie made an impact on me like few characters in fiction do. I absolutely loved him and wanted to protect him -- he definitely brought out my mama bear instincts. And while he was a very young boy, he was also extremely wise for his age. There were times that I couldn't believe he was only ten years old, and then there were other times when he seemed like a normal little boy, namely when he was at school or dealing with bullies. Jamie was also pretty darn funny. So many of his thoughts and actions were absolutely hilarious, and I'm pretty sure I laughed out loud a few times while running. I was so impressed with how this book managed to balance the sadness and humor so well.

MY SISTER LIVES ON THE MANTELPIECE delved into some pretty heavy issues about a family destroyed from grief; and I think the author did a good job of addressing some difficult topics. However, this book also explored another serious (and timely) concept -- the idea of prejudice. Since Rose was killed by a terrorist's bomb, Jamie's father hated all Muslims and blamed them for her death. When Jamie moves to the country and attends his new school, the only friend he makes is a Muslim girl. He didn't really understand all of his father's feelings, but he knew enough to hide this friendship from his father. While these scenes had some valuable lessons in them for the reader, I'm not sure the author handled the theme of prejudice quite as well as she handled those surrounding grief.

As far as audio books go, MY SISTER LIVES ON THE MANTELPIECE is up there as one of my favorites. The story was read by David Tennant; and I think he did a marvelous job. His voice became one with Jamie for me, and I loved how he portrayed all of Jamie's emotions as well as the humorous scenes. I have to say that I am pretty sure that I enjoyed the audio version of this story more than I would have the written one; and you won't hear that from me very often!

Because this book deals with so many issues, it would make a perfect pick for a tween or teen book club or even a parent/child one. I was thrilled to find that there is an educator's guide for the book with sixteen thought-provoking questions. I've probably already covered this, but some of the topics that are addressed include religion, grief, divorce, family, friendship, prejudice, forgiveness, and terrorism.

Overall, I found MY SISTER LIVES ON THE MANTELPIECE to be a heartwarming story about love and loss; and I highly recommend it to kids ages twelve and up as well as adults.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a copy of this audio book.


rhapsodyinbooks said...

I really like books narrated from a kid's point of view - this one sounds delightful!

Beth F said...

I found it to be way too depressing. I couldn't wait for the story to end. Although I loved Pitcher's writing and the audio was outstanding. I reviewed this today too.

Sandy Nawrot said...

I saw several reviews of this pop up today, and I definitely appreciate the audio spin, because that is the way I would most likely read it. If it weren't for audio, I wouldn't get anything read. It sounds like I'd need to be in a good mood to withstand the tragedy in the story!

bermudaonion said...

Like Jill, I enjoy books told from a kid's perspective and have found audios told from the first person point of view work the best for me. This book sounds marvelous!

Meg @ write meg! said...

Whew, sounds quite heavy! But I do love stories told from a child's perspective. I've been getting more and more into audio books, so I might give this one a shot.