Author: Francine Prose
Release Date: September 16, 2008
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Literary Fiction
Source: TLC Book Tours
Rating: 4 out of 5
Thirteen-year old Nico worships her older sister, Margaret. She is put-together, absolutely beautiful and has a stunning, sultry singing voice that makes men of all ages fall at her feet. Margaret’s boyfriend, Aaron, treats Nico like an actual human being, rather than his girlfriend’s kid’s sister. She’s looking very forward to a summer of laziness and hanging out with them, but it seems it’s not meant to be. Tragedy strikes in the form of Margaret’s death and Nico is forced to deal with the emotional repercussions all on her own, as her parents retreat into their own grief.
Goldengrove is a coming-of-age novel, dealing with Nico’s profound sense of loss as she crosses that threshold between childhood and young adult. Her emotional growth is stunted by her sister’s death, but at the same time she is forced to grow up so fast because her parents are preoccupied with their own sadness. Prose portrays this dichotomy incredibly well – it’s very easy to believe that Nico is a real person, caught between the safety of her childhood and her desire to be like her sister, an adult. As a result, she leaps, rather than slowly grows, into adulthood. She makes impulsive choices in an effort to grow up quickly and keep her sister near her.
Francine Prose’s writing is simply beautiful in Goldengrove. She writes about grief and the confusion of youth so poetically – her words keep the novel from becoming heavy or depressing. Instead, her language brings Goldengrove to an entirely new level – it makes it easy to read and leaves the reader wanting more.
The secondary characters in Goldengrove are also very well drawn. Francine Prose seems to explore Nico’s father more than her mother, and she does it very well. He seems completely bewildered by Margaret’s death, unable to run his book shop. He can no longer relate to his customers or accept their condolences. He can’t remember how to go about his life anymore. Similarly, all of the characters in Goldengrove are very well thought out and meticulously constructed.
Above all, Goldengrove is a novel of grief and how people deal with it. Nico’s parents retreat, Aaron reaches out, and, in many ways, Nico tries to become Margaret in order to lessen the pain. It’s a thoroughly interesting study on bereft individuals coping with loss and a beautifully written novel that I definitely recommend.