The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Release date: March 1, 2010
Everything is fine until Joe Finch Mackee is blown to pieces in a bombing at the London underground, and grief hits his remaining family members hard. The Piper’s Son, a companion novel to Saving Francesca (2005), which deals with depression in a close family, is the story of Tom Finch Mackee and Georgie Finch, Joe’s nephew and sister. The novel deals with how both of them are completely lost after Joe’s death, of how Tom has pushed everyone away, and of how Georgie can’t deal with the rest of her family. But most of all, it is a story about grief and healing and eventually, of finding your way home again.
The Piper’s Son is written from alternating points of view, switching between Tom and Georgie’s narrative. Arguably, it is Tom’s story more than Georgie’s, because his chapters are more frequent than hers, but I love how Georgie’s additions give this book a new adult (books with college-aged main characters)/adult fiction crossover effect and how much more we understand the complicated Finch Mackee family ties. From Tom’s perspective, we see him slowly putting his life back together after pushing everyone away and drinking his way to oblivion, and they are about him having to deal with the consequences of his actions that hurt his closest friends. Georgie’s chapters deal with her unplanned pregnancy and her cheating ex, as well as with the way she is struggling with her family and friends.
I discovered Marchetta earlier this year, and I have read four of her novels since (two realistic fiction, two epic fantasy) and I honestly think she does both genres well. My favorite thing about her writing is how she describes the largest of feelings with the smallest of explanations. She doesn’t need much to bring across what she wants to say, and that makes her writing so lovely. Furthermore, Marchetta doesn’t shy away from social issues. Her books address the way people deal with women being in charge, minority groups in foreign countries, mental illness and LGBTQ+ characters, without coming across as preachy. This may be a tough story, with lots of breakdowns and emotional moments, but it is also a story that shows how important love is, without being written in cliché way. It is just written like the most natural thing in the world, the way only Marchetta can write it.
The Piper’s Son is equipped with lyrical writing, a hard-hitting plot, and impeccable characterization, all things I have already come to see as so quintessentially Marchetta.
“The grief hits her hard one day. The way it can’t be controlled. The way that yesterday can be good, and so can the day before, and so can the week and fortnight before that, but then today comes and she’s back to zero. How she can’t type words into her computer or even press the in-box for her mail. The effort it takes to walk. How words can’t form in her mouth and how her blood feels paralyzed.”