Friday, January 15, 2010
Review of Love, Aubrey by Suzanne LaFleur
LaFleur, Suzanne. Love, Aubrey. Wendy Lamb Books/Random House, 2009.
I don't cry very often. I don't like it - my throat closes up, my jaws ache, my eyes sting, and my sinuses turn to cement. Luckily, books almost never move me to tears. Love, Aubrey was a notable exception.
Just to warn you, this is One of Those Hideous Books Where a Sibling Dies. (I've been reading a lot of these lately, for some reason). Eleven-year-old Aubrey's dad and seven-year-old sister Savannah died in a car crash several months ago, and now Aubrey's mother has simply vanished. Thankfully, Aubrey's maternal grandma swoops her up and brings her to Vermont, where Aubrey becomes good friends with the girl next door and begins school.
But the absence of Aubrey's dad and sister is almost too painful to endure, and if that weren't enough, Aubrey isn't sure what to think about her mother. Why did she leave? Doesn't she still love Aubrey? Does she want to live with Aubrey again? And how is Aubrey supposed to feel about her mother?
Aubrey's voice feels authentic; her thoughts and ideas about things always come from a child's perspective whether she is thinking about the loss of her family or what she is about to have for dinner. There is a calmness and even simplicity about the narration that makes the soul-wrenching emotions that Aubrey feels all the more moving. Aubrey doesn't talk much with anyone about her loss, even with her Gram, but she does write letters to her sister's imaginary friend Jilly that first circle all around the subject but then begin getting closer and closer to it. By the end, she has finally dared to write to the people she really wishes she could communicate with - her sister, her dad, and her mother.
As a big sister and a mother to two sisters, the loss of Aubrey's little sister hit me hard. Aubrey is torn by all kinds of emotions when she's around her new friend's little sister, and she can hardly bear to think about Savannah. The letter she finally writes Savannah, in which she tells about the things she misses - "Playing. Waking up before Mom and Dad and making them breakfast..." - and explains that after the accident "I used to only be able to think of you one way - and that was missing. I hated that you were that - just gone. If I imagined growing up, you were still there, and I had to erase you" - is heartbreaking.
I haven't suffered the kind of loss that Aubrey has, but it seems to me that this is as real and wrenching a portrayal of grief as I have ever read. But never fear, this book is about more than Aubrey's loss. She gains a friend and a school community and develops a truly special relationship with her Gram. Aubrey's mother? There's plenty of hope for her as well, even if the situation is far from ideal.
This is a terrific book for kids who read realistic fiction. Highly recommended for grades 4 - 6.