Sunday, September 5, 2010

Book Review - A Year and A Day by Leslie Pietryzk

From Publishers Weekly

In this heartfelt if familiar coming-of-age novel set in smalltown Shelby, Iowa, in 1975, Pietrzyk (Pears on a Willow Tree) chronicles a year in the life of 15-year-old Alice Martin after her mother's suicide. "Once you get through this first year, you're fine," the high school principal promises her, reading from a manual. But Alice isn't so sure. Three days after her mother's death, as Alice tries to fill her place by preparing Sunday morning pancakes, her mother speaks to her, providing advice on cooking, makeup and driving, but rarely answering the questions Alice really wants answered: Who is my father? What happened to him? How could you leave me? All Alice and her older brother, Will, know is what their great-aunt Aggy tells them: their mother moved away at age 17 and came back pregnant, with a baby in her arms. Over the course of the year, Alice uncovers secrets, unravels mysteries and finds that nothing and no one are what they seem. Her baseball-star brother runs away to see the Red Sox, Alice herself dallies with the school's bad boy and Pietrzyk allows the reader hints of why Alice's mother might have killed herself. Eccentric mothers and long-suffering daughters are a dime a dozen in recent fiction, but Pietrzyk paints a rich picture of life in rural Iowa, from summer jobs detassling corn to the suffocating force of conformity. As one Shelby housewife advises Alice, "Fitting in is so important. Everything is simpler that way."

My thoughts:

This is a wonderful story of a 15 year old girl who loses her mother, and spends a year questioning why, all the while hearing her mother's voice speaking to her, coaching her, teaching her, and telling her things that she did not know when her mother was alive.

Alice Martin is a typical teenager...hanging out with friends, having crushes on boys, and cherishes the times that she spends with her mom. Her mother, however, occasionally falls into deep depressions, and it was during one of these spells, that she kills herself. Alice, her 17 year old brother Will, and her Aunt Aggy struggle to find the answers why Annette Martin decided to do what she did.

Alice knows that nothing will ever be the same again, and wrestles with the fact that her mom is gone forever, and there are a lot of unanswered questions. When she begins hearing her dead mother's voice in her thoughts, she is not afraid. Her mother's voice stays with her for a year and a day, answering many of Alice's questions.

This is moving coming-of-age story with a beautiful ending.

Photobucket Very Good!

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (March 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060554665
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060554668


Kathryn Magendie said...

Stopping by to see what's up in book reading land! *smiling*

Isn't our weather wonderful lately!

Lisa said...

Oh my gosh--this book is set in the town that my mom grew up in! My grandparents lived there until they died and we still go back every year for a family reunion. I'm certainly going to have to read this one.


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