Thursday, December 8, 2011
How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr
Jill MacSweeney just wants everything to go back to normal. But ever since her dad died, she's been isolating herself from her boyfriend, her best friends--everyone who wants to support her. You can't lose one family member and simply replace him with a new one, and when her mom decides to adopt a baby, that's exactly what it feels like she's trying to do. And that's decidedly not normal. With her world crumbling around her, can Jill come to embrace a new member of the family?
Mandy Kalinowski knows what it's like to grow up unwanted--to be raised by a mother who never intended to have a child. So when Mandy becomes pregnant, she knows she wants a better life for her baby. But can giving up a child be as easy as it seems? And will she ever be able to find someone to care for her, too?
Critically acclaimed author and National Book Award finalist Sara Zarr delivers a heart-wrenching story, told from dual perspectives, about what it means to be a family and the many roads we can take to become one.
I confess I’m a little in love with this story even if the characters are not that sympathetic to begin with. How to Save a Life is painful at times but definitely emotional with them finding what’s been lost and accepting, no, trusting that where they were was the right place to be. Mandy. Jill. Robin all have something to deal with, but none of them really do so. The first runs away. The second freezes everyone out. And the last seems to think a do over is best. At least this is how they all initially seem to be. But none of them were as simple as I had first pegged. And my heart hurt for each of them. As a little more of their history was shown, I saw that just like Once Was Lost and Sweethearts, this is another quietly emotional story of second chances. It’s just that the people could be so hard to like.
Mandy… awkward is what comes to mind. I could tell she wasn’t used to people and it showed. How she latched onto Alex. How she picked Robin. How she asked questions of Jill. Awkward… but sadly never quite that sweet-awkward combination to have me feeling protective of her. She’s awkward. Period. So, I had a difficult time liking her. I suppose there was a sliver of truth in her mother’s observations regarding her social skills (or lack there of.) Except as always, there’s a reason behind it (a reason that’s alluded to time and time again,) that had me unsettled. But there’s little question at the back of my head that’s weighing things she’d done and maybe even thinking the girl… brave. That she stepped out and offered herself to strangers. I would never have the guts to write to a total strange about everything and anything going on the teeny hope that a connection had been made. Brave or not… it was scary anticipating what would happen or more likely what wouldn’t happen because of her action.
Then there’s Jill, who’d frozen everyone out, but was trying to get back to where she and who she was before everything had changed. Reading part of her trying to do these was painful as well. Because there’s so much grief there, so much anger too.
Yet the two aren’t that different. Mandy’s simple wants may not be the same as Jill’s but that fact does not make them any less meaningful. Where she wants handwritten letter to feel connected, the other one wants to find her way back: different desires, but both deeply meaningful.
And Robin. I think it’s her part of the story that delivered the biggest surprise. Her relationship with Jill was heartbreak in action. These are two women who know each other, each other’s quirks, and past. …Or at least used to know each other. There’s particular moment of her and her mother asking why one had changed while the other not at all, that did it for me and had me tearing up. They were fascinating, frustrating and heartbreaking all at once: them, tiptoeing around each other; them, not knowing how to be with each other.
Again, I may be slightly in love with this story
Read this please!