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Review - My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece

Monday, September 17, 2012
My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece
by Annabel Pitcher

Publication: August 14, 2012
Pages: 211
Author: Website  | Facebook | Twitter
Publisher: Little Brown Books for Young Readers
Buy it: Amazon | Kindle | B&N | Book Depository

I received a copy of this book for review purposes from the publisher
Ten-year-old Jamie hasn't cried since it happened. He knows he should have - Jasmine cried, Mum cried, Dad still cries. Roger didn't, but then he is just a cat and didn't know Rose that well, really.

Everyone kept saying it would get better with time, but that's just one of those lies that grown-ups tell in awkward situations. Five years on, it's worse than ever: Dad drinks, Mum's gone and Jamie's left with questions that he must answer for himself.

This is his story, an unflinchingly real yet heart-warming account of a young boy's struggle to make sense of the loss that tore his family apart.

This book pulled at my heartstrings from start to finish. Jamie was so little when his older sister Rose died, so he honestly doesn't know how he should feel about it except that he can't because he doesn't remember her well enough. Everyone else in his family mourns Rose--so much that his Mum and Dad divorced, unable to give each other the support they need. Poor little Jamie is torn in the middle, as he isn't old enough to unerstand what exactly is going on. All he wants is for his family to be together again.

It's so interesting looking at the world through the innocence of a child. Because the narrator is ten years old, the narration is told simply and honestly. The emotions are there, but they're raw and often Jamie doesn't know what it is he's feeling or what he really wants. Instead, internal conflicts rage between what he knows he should feel and be doing to honor his family and between what he knows to be right because of his unbiased innocence. He is still too young to fully grasp what it is that tore his family apart and only wants to find a way to keep it from falling apart even more. Sometimes, he even feels anger towards his dead sister, blaming Rose for all the bad that's happened.

My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece delves heavily into the emotional side of family, friendship, love, and separation. The characters talk to each other in italics, which makes it feel as though you're fighting through the emotional undercurrents in the book. And that's precisely how it has to feel for Jamie, a ten-year-old boy trying to keep his family together even as it comes apart. I couldn't help looking at the novel through the more cynic perspective of a young adult (kind of like Jasmine), but I also wanted to cheer on Jamie in his fragile attempts to reunite his family.

There is one thing that bothered me. I'm friends with some Muslims, and the ones who wear the hijab are the conservative ones who don't touch guys. Sunya wears the hijab; however, it doesn't keep her from touching Jamie (holding hands and the like). It was weird because my friends are past puberty, so they need to keep to the rules, but little kids don't have to (until they hit puberty). Since I didn't meet my friends until past puberty--till college--I'm used to girls who wear the hijab not touching guys and not letting them in their rooms.

This is a bittersweet story on how death impacts a family and the various reactions that individual members take after losing a loved one. There is Dad's newfound prejudice towards Muslims, Jas's rebellion, Mum's betrayal, and Jamie's innocence. I absolutely adored this book and will be keeping a copy on my bookshelf. It belongs there.

Rating: Keeper

3 comments on "Review - My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece"
  1. I really like the sound of this one. Have you read Saving June by Hannah Harrington? Sounds like it would have a similar vibe.

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    1. I LOVE Saving June!! The underlying mood of both stories are similar, though the narrative is quite different given the different ages of the narrators. Also, Harper remembers her sister, so June plays a much more prominent role in the story than in this one, where it's the living members of the family that play more of an impact on Jamie.

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