Friday, January 17, 2014

reconstructing amelia

reconstructing amelia
kimberly mccreight
harper collins
published 2013

Kate's in the middle of the biggest meeting of her career whens he gets the telephone call from Grace Hall, her daughter's exclusive private school in Park Slope, Brooklyn.  Amelia has been suspended, effective immediately, and Kate must come get her daughter - now.  But Kate's stress over leaving work quickly turns to panic when she arrives at the school and finds it surrounded by police officers, fire trucks, and an ambulance.  Bu then it's already too late for Amelia.  And for Kate.

An academic overachiever despondent over getting caught cheating has jumped to her death.  At least that's the story Grace Hall tells Kate.  And clouded as she is by her guilt and grief, it is the one she forces herself to believe.  Until she gets an anonymous text: She didn't jump.

A parent's worst nightmare is the death of their child way before their time.  I sit here thinking about Reconstructing Amelia and how I don't know what I would do.  Could I survive that?  Could I continue on as Kate had?

I would like to think that I would search for answers as she does.  That I would not rest until I knew exactly what happened to my child.  But then, when you find out what do you do with that information?

I expected the story for Kate's POV.  A single, working mother who despite her busy hours tries to make time for her daughter.  I didn't expect to see things through Amelia's perspective.  It's heartbreaking.  To know how Amelia felt about everything that was going on around her, how she truly felt about her mother and Kate would never really know.

Of course, spanning out around Amelia is the hot topic of bullying.  I always thought about how much more vicious girls can be than boys.  Never is that more true than in Reconstructing Amelia.

There is much about this book that hurts to read.  When Kate talks about not being able to remember what Amelia smelled like despite searching desperately on pillows she hadn't washed I started to cry.  I remember once hearing a man talking about dealing with the death of his young son.  He mentioned that he was down in the basement laundry room where he had kept a bag of his son's clothes that he never washed.  Every once in a while he would pull something out of that bag to just inhale, hoping to catch a whiff of that little boy smell.  Even now, thinking about that man I cry.  It's like the last physical manifestation of your child who is gone is there for a brief time after they have left and you find comfort in being able to hold onto this proof that they had actually existed.

This is not a book that leaves you feeling relived.  There is no happy ending.  The people who should be punished seem to skate away unscathed while Amelia is still gone.  I suppose, like most things in life, it's meant to be not fair.

Kimberly McCreight flutters flawlessly between Kate's voice and Amelia's.  Both are believable and smartly fleshed out.  Sometimes both do something that just seems nuts, but then you remember that sometimes you do things that are nuts.  Some parts of the mystery were obvious, but it didn't deter me from wanting to continue.

But the whole time I was reading I kept thinking, Amelia isn't coming back.  This bright, beautiful, loved young girl isn't getting her happy ending.  And that was hard.

1 comment:

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