My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher

sister mantelpiece 2

“We meet again, Spider-Man” she said.
And I replied “How many people have you saved today, Girl M.”
She pretended to count on her fingers. “Nine hundred and thirty-seven” she shrugged. “It’s been a quiet day.”

Five years after his sister Rose was killed in a terrorist attack, 10 year old Jamie still hasn’t cried. He knows he should have – his mum cried, Jas cried and his dad still cries. Only Roger didn’t cry, but then he is just a cat and didn’t know Rose that well, really.

I started reading this book without any expectations. I am currently at my parent’s house, recovering from surgery, and picked up this book at random from a pile my mum had borrowed from the library. (One advantage of spending most of your day with one leg up is that it gives you lots of time to read :).) The blurb only consisted of the quote above and thus betrayed very little, but combined with the book’s title it was enough to catch my attention.

Tired of the guilt she and her husband have been pushing back and forth, Jamie’s mum runs off with a man from her support group who understands. Jamie, his dad and his older sister Jas move to the country, where there are no “murderous foreigners”, but, as was to be expected, Jamie’s teacher sits him next to the only Muslim in the school: a kickass girl with a great imagination called Sunya. Pitcher cleverly describes how Jamie tries to deal with his fear to disappoint his father on one hand, and his own admiration for Sunya on the other. He has to learn what it means to think for yourself, but, understandably, this is a very hard task for a ten-year-old boy. Jamie is constantly trying to ‘fix’ his family and finds it hard to follow why his father puts a piece of birthday cake next to his sister’s urn instead of serving him, or why his mother still hasn’t answered his letters.

If guilt was an animal then it would be an octopus. All slimy and wriggly with hundreds of arms that wrap around your insides and squeeze them tight.

The audio book version is read by David Tennant.
The audio book version is read by David Tennant.

Even though it tells the story of a family ripped apart by a terrorist attack, this is not a very dramatic book. Jamie narrates the story very matter-of-fact like and focuses on the elements he finds important, such as winning a football match and making his father proud. At the same time, the aftermath of Rose’s death is always present. Though I occasionally felt like punching Jamie’s father for the racist comments he makes or when he hurts Jamie and Jas without even noticing, Pitcher manages to describe him in such a way that I also felt his heartbreaking grief.

For me, the strongest point of this book is how Jamie tries to cope with the death of a sister he can barely remember. He never misses Rose, but longs for the family he had before her death and feels the hole she left everywhere.

“In fact she was quite bad and according to Jas she was naughty at school, but no one seems to remember that now she is all dead and perfect.”

But, as I feel is usually the case with this genre, the strength of the story is largely determined by its ending. It is incredibly hard to wrap up a story that is so full of truth and complicated feeling without doing it the injustice of either an ending that is too happy, or an ending that is too open and leaves out a proper arc. As far as endings go, I would rate this one as ‘satisfactory’. It tied up the story nicely, but it I wasn’t very impressed.

You can watch the trailer for the book here.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s