Review & Book Tour: Goldengrove

By Francine Prose
Pub. Date: September 2009
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Format: Paperback, 275pp
ISBN-13: 9780060560027
ISBN: 0060560029

The blurb from the publisher:

At the center of Francine Prose’s profoundly moving new novel is a young girl facing the consequences of sudden loss after the death of her sister. As her parents drift toward their own risky consolations, thirteen-year-old Nico is left alone to grope toward understanding and clarity, falling into a seductive, dangerous relationship with her sister’s enigmatic boyfriend.

Over one haunted summer, Nico must face that life-changing moment when children realize their parents can no longer help them. She learns about the power of art, of time and place, the mystery of loss and recovery. But for all the darkness at the novel’s heart, the narrative itself is radiant with the lightness of summer and charged by the restless sexual tension of teenage life.

The Short of It:

An unsettling look at what happens to a family when a loved one is suddenly no more.

The Rest of It:

I’ve often wondered about death. Death that results from illness is quite different than a death that results from an accident or a sudden heart attack. In this novel, Margaret dies suddenly. Her family has no time to prepare themselves for the loss and for Nico, Margaret’s younger sister, it’s as if Margaret is there one minute and gone the next. How does a family deal with such a loss?

As Nico struggles with her grief, she realizes that Aaron, Margaret’s boyfriend is really the only person that understands what she is going through. They form an unlikely friendship which at times seems inappropriate but seeing what these two have been through, and what Margaret meant to them, all I saw were two people in a lot of pain trying desperately to overcome their grief.

Francine Prose does a remarkable job of describing what Nico is feeling and although Margaret was not on the page for long, you definitely get a feel for her personality as these characters look back on their moments with her. Many have said that Nico seems older than her thirteen years. This may be true, but to me she came across as an ‘old soul’ which made her relationship with Aaron a bit easier for me to understand.

As Prose takes us through the novel, Nico sees signs that Margaret is still with her. I’ve always been fascinated by signs. They function as a form of comfort and generally exist to help us through a crisis. Prose does a wonderful job of providing comfort to Nico in the way of signs and whether or not you believe they exist in real life doesn’t really matter, because they exist realistically within the novel.

I had one small quibble with Aaron. At the beginning of the novel, a comment is made which might lead the reader to think that all is not right with Aaron. As I was reading, I kept waiting for that secret to be revealed but in my opinion nothing was revealed. I felt that his actions were motivated by his loss so perhaps I missed something there.

This novel was a very quick read. Once I started it, I could not put it down. The prose was easy to follow and I cared about the characters and what they were going through. This was my first experience with Prose’s writing style but it definitely won’t be my last.

If you’d like to read more about Francine Prose, click here to read her bio.

Check out her Blog Talk Radio interview with Book Club Girl here.

To purchase the book, visit Amazon, Barnes & Noble or an independent bookseller of your choice.

Check out the rest of Francine’s tour stops here.

A big ‘thank you’ to TLC Book Tours for asking me to be a part of this tour.

18 thoughts on “Review & Book Tour: Goldengrove”

  1. I've been seeing the reviews on the tour, and it does absolutely sound like a page turner, albeit a disturbing one. I think everyone has either been in the situation of losing someone like this or knows someone who has, and it is horrible. Horrible to go through and horrible to watch. I tip my hat to the authors who bring this to the forefront. Maybe it will help someone cope?

  2. I have this books and of course have not had the chance to read it yet. I really like Francine Prose's writing style and from your review it seems that this is deft handling of a sensitive topic. Thanks for your review. I am looking forward to reading it.

  3. I enjoyed this book too, although enjoy might not be the right word – -maybe appreciate! It was deeply moving and I could really feel the characters' pain.

  4. Sounds like the author really gets the grief process. I wish there were more "happy" books, even though they wouldn't be page turners!!! :–)

  5. I read other reviews on the book tour and it sounds like this is a very gripping novel. I'd like to read the story to understand the 'old soul'. She seems to be a compelling character. Thanks for an excellent review.

  6. When I was 18, I had a friend who was also 18 who drowned in a river. As I read these reviews, I wonder if I would see a parallel between the story and the family I know in real life…

    Thanks for being on this tour, Ti! A very thought-provoking review. 🙂

  7. I was glad to have read this book – the fine writing really lifts it away from being depressing, even as it deals with deep sorrow. You've written a very nice review, too.

  8. Thanks for your wonderful and insightful review, Ti. I was just over at Lisa's reading her review of this one. It sounds like such a good story. Death really is life changing. I've lost people both to illness and suddenly in my life. It really can affect a person differently.

  9. I'm currently reading Prose's Reading Like a Writer, and it is NOT a quick read, so I was surprised to hear you say that. I've never read any of her fiction, so I may have to give this one a try.

  10. This kind of hits home with me because of losing my dad in August very unexpectedly. I don't think it is easier either way to lose someone but I wished I could have had a chance to say goodbye to him. It felt so abrupt and sudden.

    And I've been searching for signs of him ever since he died. I do believe in some kind of after life and I know that if he could do something for me, he would. I haven't had one yet but my brother and my mom seem to have. Perhaps he just hasn't found his way to me in New Jersey.

    I may check out this book as it is on a topic that is meaningful to me. Thanks for a great review.

  11. From your review, I understand that Prose has handled this sensitive topic very deftly. It sounds like a book one should read.

  12. It's a rare family that isn't profoundly changed by the death of one of their members. What intrigues me about this book is it focuses on what happens to the 13 year old when so often adults forget how much tragedy can affect a child. It is troubling that not only does Nico lose her sister but she realizes her parents are can't protect her. I'm always drawn to novels like this. Thank you for a great review.

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