by Lois Lowry
When Francine Prose’s Goldengrove was published a few years ago, I immediately thought of A Summer to Die. It was in this novel for young adults that I was first introduced to Gerard Manley Hopkins’s famous words:
Margaret, are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
If I remembered this novel so vividly, it must be good. And it is!
Briefly, the Chalmers family moves out into the country for a year. And in that year, everything changes, especially for sisters Meg and Molly. Meg is thirteen and brainy and awkward. Molly is fifteen and beautiful and bubbly. The tension between the sisters is palpable until Molly gets sick. What starts out as nosebleeds turns into a diagnosis of leukemia.
Our story focuses on Meg and how she handles her sister’s illness, as well as coping with her own adolescent concerns.
The writing is beautiful and lyrical. The emotions are raw and real. What I appreciate most about this novel is how the author focuses on the pain experienced by Molly’s family. Molly isn’t the melodramatic dying main character. Instead, Lowry focuses on Meg, her uninformed and conflicted sister, who’s just trying to find her way in the world. And on top of that, she’s also trying to survive her sister’s illness and eventual death.
This novel is far more real and sensitive than the tripe currently being published for young adults. This is a novel that transcends generations—librarians should be sure to keep it on their shelves.