Shelf Location: Young Adult
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. The copy used in this review was a final copy and not an advanced reader copy. The opinions in this review are solely my own and do not reflect the views of the publisher or author.
In 1970, 13-year-old Jody Moran wants pierced ears, a kiss from a boy, and more attention from her mother. It’s not fair. Seems like her mother is more worked up about the Apollo 13 astronauts, who may not make it back to earth safely. As it happens, the astronauts are spared a crash landing, but Jody is not, for three days after splashdown, her mother dies in a car accident. Now, Jody will never know if her mother really loved her. Jody’s father has taught them to believe in the “Power of Intention.” Announce what you want to the world to make it happen. But could the power of Jody’s jealousy and anger have caused Mom’s accident? To relieve her guilt and sadness, she devotes herself to mothering her three younger siblings and helping Dad, which quickly proves too much for her, just as persuading quirky Grandma Cupcakes to live with them proves too much for Grandma. That’s when Jody decides to find someone to marry her father, a new mom who will love her best. Jody reads high and low to learn about love, marriage and death. For her adolescent firsts—kiss, bra, and boyfriend—she has the help of her popular older sister, her supportive father, and comical Grandma. But each first, which makes her miss her mother, teaches her that death doesn’t happen just once.
In her own words, Kerry L. Malawista shares the inspiration for writing her novel. “I lost my mother at the age of nine, and many patients in my psychotherapy practice come to me struggling with loss. I recognized my own experience in a teenage patient who admitted that she was furious at her mother for dying of cancer but also guilty for wishing her dead…. I had to write this book because I was the child left behind, I was the teen wracked with guilt, and I am the adult helping others through it.”
This heartfelt book begins with a tragedy. Jody Moran has just turn thirteen and struggles with the changes that are happening around her. To make matters even worse, she loses her mother in a horrific car accident and her family is thrust into a world of newness. Told from the perspective of Jody, we get to see her life unfold before our eyes as she navigates grief and puberty. Her family now a family of five instead of six, must learn to adjust to their new normal without their mother. The glue that kept the family together. Prior to her mother passing, Jody felt as if her mother was not giving her enough attention. After her mother’s death she must learn to cope with the loss and the guilt she feels. The days and months following her mother’s death lead to numerous changes. Their grandmother attempts to help her father with the kids after a few failed baby sitter attempts and Jody begins to navigate her life as a teen. She makes an unlikely friendship with her neighbor and son and is able to talk through her emotions associated with the loss of her mother and navigating friendships at school. The Moran family bond continues to build as they work together to provide support to each other. Joe Moran attempts to navigate the dating scene while keeping up with is business and parenting. This family goes through a lot together as they attempt to create their own version of a happy ending.
The author does a wonderful job with this novel. She channels her own grief to develop characters that are both relatable and realistic. The story flows well and kept me captivated the entire time. I loved the development of each character and the descriptive writing style made me feel as if I was transported into the text. I felt the same emotions that Jody felt. One of my favorite quotes from the novel was from an interaction between Jody and her neighbor about loss.
“Yep. I am not sure if it’s worse remembering or forgetting her.”
This reminded me so much of my own experience with loss and grief. I was drawn to novel mostly because of how I knew I would relate to the story. I lost my mom when I was six years old and went through similar changes. I was given a similar book that talked about grief and how to deal with it. Losing a parent is difficult and grief has no time limit. I enjoyed reading about Jody and her woes of puberty. This reminded me of the middle school me getting my first bra and having my first crush. The author does a phenomenal job with this story and topic. She has the ability to bring awareness to grief all while remaining sensitive to the reader. I’ve read other text that would require a trigger warning but this book touches the topic with such tenderness that a warning is not required.
Would I recommend this book? Absolutely
About the Author
Kerry L. Malawista, PhD is a writer and psychoanalyst in Potomac, MD. She is co-chair of New Directions in Writing and founder of the recent project The Things They Carry – offering virtual writing workshops for healthcare and frontline workers. Her essays have appeared nationally in newspapers, magazines and literary journals including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Baltimore Sun, The Boston Globe, Zone 3, Washingtonian Magazine, The Huffington Post, Bethesda Magazine, Arlington Magazine, The Account Magazine, and Delmarva Review, which nominated her for a Pushcart Prize. She is the co-author of Wearing my Tutu to Analysis and Other Stories (2011), The Therapist in Mourning: From the Faraway Nearby (2013), both published by Columbia University Press, and Who’s Behind the Couch (2017) published by Routledge Press. When the Garden Isn’t Eden: More Psychoanalytic Concepts from Life will be published by Columbia University Press spring 2022 and her novel, Meet the Moon will be released September 2022 by Regal House Publishing. Her website is KerryMalawista.com.