My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece – Annabel Pitcher
I remember when I read Ketchup Clouds by the same author back last year, that I really wanted to review it because it is all kinds of awesome and I don’t know if I can rest without everyone reading it, but reviewing it would have given away everything, so I am so glad that I picked up another of her books and that this one was easier to review without spoiling it!
Ten-year-old Jamie Matthews has just moved to the Lake District with his Dad and his teenage sister, Jasmine for a ‘Fresh New Start’. Five years ago his sister’s twin, Rose, was blown up by a terrorist bomb. His parents are wrecked by their grief, Jasmine turns to piercing, pink hair and stops eating. The family falls apart. But Jamie hasn’t cried in all that time.
To him Rose is just a distant memory. Jamie is far more interested in his cat, Roger, his birthday Spiderman T-shirt, and in keeping his new friend Sunya a secret from his dad. And in his deep longing and unshakeable belief that his Mum will come back to the family she walked out on months ago.
When he sees a TV advert for a talent show, he feels certain that this will change everything and bring them all back together once and for all.
Unlike Ketchup Clouds, which I would group firmly into the YA genre, this is more Mid grade or perhaps a bit younger, it’s told through the eyes of 10 year old Jamie and there is some serious talent being displayed here because there was never any doubt that Jamie was a ten year old boy, he sounded like one, he thought like one, he saw the world like one and although I am a 26 year old female, I was hooked from the very first page.
I’ll admit, I was drawn to the title without really knowing an awful lot about this book, but the more of it I read, the scarier it was, it was so poignant in todays society, a little boy telling us the story of how his older sister died in a terrorist attack, at how it tore apart his family, at how his father became Islamophobic and is trying to ingrain that hatred into his children and how Jamie fails to see that his best friend, Sunya, a muslim girl, could be anything like the people who planted the bomb that killed his sister in the first place. It’s a really fascinating look at how hatred is learned, not inherent, it’s an interesting look at society and grief and families all in one fairly short story.
I think, for me at least, this is a really important lesson about grief. Jamie is constantly made to feel guilty about the fact that he hasn’t cried over his sister’s death, that he thinks keeping her urn and her ashes on the mantelpiece and continuing to throw her birthday parties etc is a bit silly, when really, he was five when she died, he barely remembers her. You can’t miss something you never really knew. I find that people tend to forget this. I’m always hearing stories of people who have lost someone has a child and being given a look of complete disbelief when they’re able to just stroll through life as usual. It is ok to grieve, it’s ok to feel sad, it’s ok to cry, but equally, it’s ok to not do those things and I think that’s often overlooked. My grandfather died just after Christmas this year a few days short of his 90th birthday, which is sad. I felt sad about it. But at the same time, I didn’t really know him, he didn’t really know me. I didn’t grow up going to his house every sunday and speaking to him every week like I did my other grandad and when he died, although I was sad that he wasn’t around anymore and I felt sympathetic towards my dad who had lost his father, I didn’t really know how to express myself, I couldn’t cry over it because I didn’t really know him. It sounds horrible, but that was the truth, so I really related to Jamie in that sense, people kept asking me how I was feeling, if I was ok and I was and I felt terrible about that, but I shouldn’t have done. Neither should the characters in this book and neither should any one who decides to read this.
I really can’t recommend Anabell Pincher enough, Ketchup Clouds was addictive, incredibly well written and sucked you into it’s own little bubble, refusing to let you go even after the last page had been turned (and the cover is hella pretty), this was no exception, My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece was every bit as heartbreaking, thought provoking and utterly obsession inducing as it’s bookish sibling and I urge you all to check this author out if you haven’t already.
Oh look, here’s something we haven’t done for a while, this gets the Nick Fury Seal of Approval.