I came in this book, expecting a guffaws-a-minute marathon with Thomas Mackee, the "last bastion of patriarchal poor taste, arrested development and mental retardation". So it took me a couple of chapters to get into the groove of things seeing as this is actually a story about Tom AND his aunt Georgie, 5 years after Saving Francesca, living in the years after the death of a beloved family member. That and every possible issue you can cram in a New Adult-Adult book: family, friendship, love, honor, sex, religion, loss, grief, betrayal, forgiveness… racial stereotypes? I'm thinking back on that scene where Tom finally confronts Mohsin and I'll also have to put a check on that one.
Having read a fair amount of the New Adult books out there that claims to be realistic has somewhat skewed my expectations on what realistic is. The first half of this book, I couldn't understand the ripples created by the death of Joe, Tom's uncle, and the recovery of the body of one Tom Finch, Tom's biological grandfather. From Vietnam. I couldn't relate to the bonds these 2 characters have forged to the players in this story.
Because standard "realistic" New Adult fare means it's the mom or the dad and a car crash or cancer or infidelity or alcohol or abuse… and hey, sometimes, when you're really lucky, all of the above, that fuels the drama in the story. Then the a**hole hero falls for his best friend, no the other bestfriend who has a boyfriend overseas. And who cares about the other adults in the family? They're old, they have nothing interesting to offer the story. Then tension, tension, sex… then cliffhanger.
Get ready to be reprogrammed.
Because these two seemingly unrelated events are like separate storms, and you're standing there with Tom and Georgie, weathering through their effects on mothers, fathers, cheating boyfriends, almost girlfriends and the people they survive the day to day with in the aftermath of regrets, foraging through the pain of loss and embracing the unassuming comfort offered by the unlikeliest of friends.
It sounds heavy, I know and it is. Marchetta does what she does best: telling you a heartbreaking story,make you comfortable with amusing banter, then kick your heart broken to pieces again so she can patch them up good to break. Again.
And then she's crying. Just crying and crying like everyone in his life does these days. He walks around her desk and hugs her. Vows there'll never be a reason for him to treat her the way he has. Because he doesn't want her crying like this ever again.
"Am I worth the hard w--?"
"Yes," he says before she finishes.
But there's an art to how Marchetta delivers those gutting moments. The gentlest comforting laughter and humor so that when she's starting that littlest pinch in your heart, you don't notice until you're already bleeding some.
"Frankie will choose the two shittiest songs each time, just to piss us off," Tom mutters.
There's a sound of disgust from the front seat. "What a thing to say, Tom. Since when have I been that petty, huh?" She turns to Justine. "Can you believe he said that? Can you?"
"Say you're sorry, Tom," Justine says.
He says he's sorry and Francesca plays Avril Lavigne's "Sk8r Boi".
I have a bit of a pause weighing if this should be a 4 or a 5, but decisive enough to shelve it a favorite. But I have a feeling opinion will be divided on this one among my friends. The story is told in a non-linear fashion, lots of flashbacks that feels disjointed. One could even fashion a game out of it where you could cut up the flashbacks and arrange them in proper, linear chronology. It's not an easy read where you can't predict anything. Georgie is a 42-year old woman who got knocked up for the first time. Tom is a uni dropout, working as a dishwasher while his family's in tatters and Tara Finke is in East Timor with a Brazilian boyfriend. I don't know anyone in real life in these predicaments but the small effort to understand their stories makes me feel like I already do.
Is it worth it then? The confusion at length? The gutting moments? The characters you can't seem to understand or care for at first? If only to read someone like Tom Mackee say this to someone like Tara Finke?
"Don't let anyone take care of you. Can you maybe leave that for me to do? I mean. take care of you? Feel free to take care of me in return… because I think I'll need you to do that."
Then yes. A thousand times, yes.
This one's for you, Tom.