Tag Archives: Melina Marchetta

Road Trip Down Memory Lane

This isn’t a full post as much as it is a few quick updates about what I’ve been/will be up to. I’ll be participating again this month in the discussion over at Tumblr’s Reblog Book Club for Laurie Halse Anderson’s new book, The Impossible Knife of Memory, so I’ll probably be cross-posting some of my thoughts on that in the upcoming weeks.

In other news, some six months later, I’ve finally put together a video of  the cross-country trip my mom, sisters, and I made this summer. This is totally unbook-related, but it’s one of my creative projects I wanted to share, so here it is.

And because this wouldn’t be BookEndeavors without at least SOME books, I just want to give a shout-out to a few of my favorite books that include road trips (but aren’t necessarily road trip books).

1. Jellicoe Road, by Melina Marchetta – Now this, might not strike most people as a road trip book. Almost the entire story takes place at a state boarding school in rural Australia. But the book starts with a road trip, and it ends with one.

It happened on the Jellicoe Road. The prettiest road I’d ever seen, where trees made breezy canopies like a tunnel to Shangri-La. We were going to the ocean, hundreds of miles away, because I wanted to see the ocean and my father said that it was about time the four of us made that journey. I remember asking, ‘What’s the difference between a trip and a journey?’ and my father said, ‘Narnie, my love, when we get there, you’ll understand,’ and that was the last thing he ever said.”

2. The Key to the Golden Firebird, by Maureen Johnson – Again, not strictly a road trip book. But that’s perhaps the scene in the book that truly draws all three of the sisters in the novel back together, gives them a chance to be giddy and honest and unabashedly weird. Plus the book revolves around a car, so there’s that. I wrote a full review for this book a while back, which can be found here.

The funny thing about stop signs is that they’re also start signs.

3. Saving June, by Hannah Harrington – Now, this one is a true road trip book. After her sister June’s suicide, Harper and her best friend take off to visit California, the place Harper knew her sister always dreamed of going. I’ve always enjoyed books about grief after the death of a loved one. Maybe it’s my way of preparing for the worst; or maybe it’s that in those books, the protagonists are usually already near rock bottom at the book’s outset, so I don’t feel like I spend half the book waiting for the other shoe to drop. At any rate, I thought this book had it all – justified angst, character development, plot, and of, course the kind of music necessary for any road trip, fictional or otherwise.

Some people think that a place can save them… Like if they could just be somewhere else, their lives would be totally different. They could finally be the people they always wanted to be. But to me, a place is just a place. If you really want things to change, you can make them change no matter where you are.

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Mental Health Awareness Week

Hello BookEnders! I know I updated only a few days ago. But I was just scrolling through my tumblr dashboard, and in the midst of all the gifs and quotes and articles about reading and writing and librarianing, one stood out for a moment. “I’ve decided to pick three books for #read for mental health week.”

"I decided to pick three books for mental health week." Original post here: http://iwouldratherbereading.tumblr.com/post/63400696540/i-decided-to-pick-three-books-for-read-for-mental

Click here for the original post.

I haven’t read all three of the books in that post. I’ve been meaning to read The Bell Jar for ages, hadn’t heard of I Never Promised You a Rose Garden, but loved It’s Kind of a Funny Story. First, I had to look up when Mental Health Awareness week even is (for 2013, it’s October 6th through the 12th). Mental Health Day itself is coming up on Thursday, October 10th. There’s something a little sad about becoming aware that you were unaware of mental health awareness.

But although I didn’t know there was a special week or day designated to mental health awareness, it’s a topic that’s been on my mind a lot this past year. And while I won’t go into details, I have a lot of people in my life who’ve dealt (and are still dealing) with mental illness in one form or another. And I include myself in that group.

That’s something I’m hesitant to admit on this blog – probably because we’re socially conditioned to view mental illness as some kind of shameful secret, a sign of weakness. But to me, it seems like another unavoidable part of the human condition. Like with physical illness, some of us just get sick for a little while; others face more chronic conditions. We get better and we relapse – and (hopefully) we get better again.

I’m not qualified to talk about mental illness beyond what I’ve learned from my own experiences and that of my friends and family. And it’s often hard to know what to say when you’re not sure how (or if) you can help someone you love. But I always know how to talk about books. So, taking my cue from the above tumblr post, here’s a few books I’d recommend for mental health awareness week.

1)      Saving Francesca, by Melina Marchetta – There are dozens (perhaps hundreds) of reasons to love this book. One of them is its exploration of depression and its effects on an entire family. The story starts when Mia Spinelli – driving force of the Spinelli family and mother to sixteen-year-old protagonist Francesca – can’t get out of bed. Although Mia’s major depression drives the larger storyline, her depression is reflected in Francesca’s life, as well. I think it generally gives a really complex look into what depression means for different people.

Quote from Saving Francesca:

The depression belongs to all of us. I think of the family down the road whose mother was having a baby and they went around the neighborhood saying, “We’re pregnant.” I want to go around the neighborhood saying, “We’re depressed.” If my mum can’t get out of bed in the morning, all of us feel the same. Her silence has become ours, and it’s eating us alive.

2)      The Nature of Jade, by Deb Caletti – In this novel, high school senior, Jade, begins to pursue her interests – such as volunteering in the elephant house at the local zoo – in spite of the anxiety and panic attacks from which she suffers. I especially love this book now, because a) it’s set in Seattle and b) it helps me feel close to the friend who recommended it to me, although she is pretty far away geographically. If you have a hankering to read about elephants, Seattle, or a smart, funny girl who happens to have anxiety, check this one out.

Quote from The Nature of Jade:

I am not my illness. “Girl with Anxiety,” “Trauma of the Week” — no. I hate stuff like that. Everyone, everyone has their issue. But the one thing my illness did make me realize is how necessary it is to ignore the dangers of living in order to live. And how much trouble you can get into if you can’t.

3)      It’s Kind of a Funny Story, by Ned Vizzini – I know that the post above includes this novel, but I have to second it. Craig Gilner is an overachiever determined to get into the prestigious “Executive Pre-Professional” school of Manhattan. The only problem – he’s not sure how to cope once he’s actually there. Craig enters a downward spiral that brings him into a mental hospital, where he meets others suffering from mental illness in one form or another. There, he learns not only why he’s there – but what happens once he gets out. It’s sad, it’s honest, but most of all – well, kind of a funny story.

Quote from It’s Kind of a Funny Story:

“I’m going to be here until I’m cured?”
“Life is not cured, Mr. Gilner. Life is managed.”

I know I always say this at the end of blog posts, but I would truly love for readers to add to the discussion in comments; what books have contributed to your understanding of mental illness? This is by no means a comprehensive list, just a few books that have stood out for me. In the meantime, make sure to do your best in supporting those in your life struggling with mental illness – this week, or any other time of the year.

National Institute of Mental Health’s Website – This site provides a pretty broad array of different resources and information. If you have any other resources to share, please leave them in the comments.

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“The Piper’s Son,” by Melina Marchetta

She can claim sole responsible for introducing me to the word, at least.
Image from http://www.bookworld.com.au/quotes

Many bookworms I know dread having to answer that well-intended question, “What’s your favorite book?” Although I’m normally a rather indecisive person, I can answer this one with ease: Melina Marchetta’s The Piper’s Son. A long time Marchetta fan, I paid more for shipping than I did for the book, utterly unable to wait for the US release. I ordered it from Australia. Oh, the things we do for love. It was worth it, though. And besides, I personally prefer to have the original version of the book rather than the ones edited to be slightly more understandable to American audiences.

The Piper’s Son is technically a follow-up to one of Marchetta’s earlier books, Saving Francesca, but could easily be read on its own. Its main protagonist, Tom, was somewhere between a supporting and minor character in Saving Francesca. Tom’s family has more or less fallen apart following his Uncle Joe’s death in the 7/7 Tube bombing in London. Tom’s mother has moved to Brisbane with Tom’s little sister, Anabel. Tom’s father has gone who-knows-where, downing whiskey after whiskey to get through the day. And when his flatmates kick him out, Tom has no choice but to move in with his pregnant Aunt Georgie.

Australian version of the cover. Did you know that Australian novels put dialogue in single quote marks (‘like this’) rather than double quote marks (“like this”)?

Georgie, older sister to Tom’s Uncle Joe, serves as the story’s other protagonist. The story alternates between sections told in Georgie’s and Tom’s points-of-view. In short, everything in both Tom and Georgie’s lives have gone to pieces since his Joe’s death two years ago. I love stories where everything is in shambles, and the course of the book shows the protagonist struggling to set things right again, so this was a book I was naturally drawn towards.

What I find most impressive in this novel and in Marchetta’s writing in general is the abundant presence of complex characters. Everyone in the story from Georgie’s best friend, Lucia, to Tom’s love interest, the “smart, stubborn, ridiculously uncool” Tara Finke, is presented as a three-dimensional, well-developed character. Marchetta’s ability to turn every character into one with unexpected depths is what first drew me to her books in the first place. When I read Saving Francesca in high school, I remember being struck by the idea that every person – even the ones we unthinkingly write off – has so much more to him- or herself than what we see in passing. When Marchetta does use stereotypes, she plays with them rather than letting them serve as the character’s entire identity.

Lastly, I owe Marchetta one more thing – my love of Australian rock musician, Paul Kelly. Paul Kelly and Melina Marchetta are alike; wildly popular in Australia, less so in the States. Throughout The Piper’s Son, frequent references to Paul Kelly’s music are made. In some ways It’s the music Tom grew up on, when his family was still a cohesive unit. He wishes his father would reunite his Mom, like in characters in a Paul Kelly song. His band covers a Paul Kelly song. Most heartbreaking, there’s the family story of how when Uncle Joe was in college – or rather, “uni” – he and his friends ending up at the police station for getting drunk and stealing a street sign. While there, Joe called Tom’s father and started singing Paul Kelly’s “How to Make Gravy,” changing the lyrics to fit Tom’s family.

One of my favorite lines from the novel is Joe’s description of the song to Tom: “It’s a love story, Tommy . . . It’s a love story between Dan and Joe and every member of their family.”  That sums up the heart of The Piper’s Son – a love story between Tom and every member of his family.

Melina Marchetta’s Website
Great Interview with Marchetta About Writing Heroines
A Melina Marchetta Fan Tumblr

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