Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Sincerity of Margo Rabb

Remember I wrote about Margo Rabb and her essay about Young Adult literature in the New York Times this summer. I have finally had the chance to read her latest novel “Cures for Heartbreak” (better later than never!). I had searched for it in several bookshops in Amsterdam and in Brussels, and since I couldn’t find it I simply ordered it online. After being away for a month, I was back home and “Cures for Heartbreak” was waiting for me…

The only family grief I have ever experienced was the loss of my grandfather four years ago. It was sad but in no way comparable to loosing one’s parent. So I had absolutely no idea how it must be like to lose one’s mum at the age of 15. I still don’t have a clue of course and I will never; because I am 29 and my mother is still alive and in good health. The day she will be gone, I will experience grief, but not like a 15 year old girl. I have been deeply touched by Margo Rabb’s narrative. I am not going to discuss why it is a YA novel or why it should or shouldn’t be, simply because I am no specialist in the field and also because no matter on what shelve the book has been placed, I am only interested in sharing my feelings about its content and not about its label. But the subject in itself is quite fascinating and really interesting. Many writers and reviewers have discussed the subject of YA literature on the blogosphere (check Colleen Mondor’s blog Chasing Ray among many others and of course Margo Rabb's essay on the NYT).

"Cures for Heartbreak" starts with Mia, her sister Alex and their father choosing a coffin for their mother’s funeral. “We’re in a play in which the funeral is the last act” says the father for the fifth time in two days. It all indeed looks so surreal: one day, Mia’s mother is diagnosed with cancer, “If she dies, I’ll die” writes the young 15 year old girl in her diary, and twelve days later, she dies But Mia doesn’t. She carries her grief everywhere, because this kind of love never dies but it hurts deeply. Throughout the novel, I was immersed in Mia’s world, in her fears, her doubts, her wishes, her friendships, her laughs and even her grief. Michael Chabon puts it absolutely right when he writes that the novel is “(…) sad, funny, smart, (and) endlessly poignant (…)” As she explains in the afterword, Margo Rabb has based herself on her own experience to write this novel. However, what makes the book magical and real is not that it contains autobiographical elements, but the sincerity of the narrative voice. Mia is not Margo, she is a fictional character and she has a life on her own, she is free from any psychological therapy many authors are unfortunately producing throughout their characters. This why I loved “Cures for Heartbreak” and I strongly recommend it to everyone, no matter how old. The still unconvinced ones can start having a look at Margo Rabb’s original and really enriching blog Books, Chocolate, Sundries where you will meet plenty of other fascinating authors presented through Margo's eyes. Again, always in a very sincere way.

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