Title: The Piper’s Son
Author: Melina Marchetta
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Rating: 4.9/5 stars
The Piper’s Son is the sequel to Melina Marchetta’s wonderful Saving Francesca, but can also be read on its own if you don’t mind spoilers. I highly, highly, recommend checking out SF before diving into this one–seriously, no book will ever have the same impact on me as it did, ever again–but SF may not be for everyone. Though both books may begin dark and depressing, I feel that the journeys through each of them are quite worth it. But not everyone can or wants to handle it, so it’s up to you to decide for yourself.
“Maybe she’d always been there. Maybe strangers enter your heart first and then you spent the rest of your life searching for them.”
THIS. BOOK. This. Book. You. Guys.
**From here on out, there may be small spoilers for Saving Francesca**
After reading Saving Francesca and it quickly becoming one of my favorites–if not favorite contemporary book–I was beyond excited to find out there was a sequel following Tom’s perspective. He was, by far, my favorite secondary character, so to know I’d get to learn more about him and his life was wonderful.
For those in the know, The Piper’s Son picks up five years after SF. Our lovely, tight-knit, group of misfits is now spread out all over the world, with the exception of Tom, Francesca, and Justine who are still hanging around. Siobhan is enjoying life in London, Tara’s in East Timor trying to make the world a better place, Will is hard at work with his Engineer buddies, and no one has seen Jimmy Hailer since he took off about a year ago.
A lot can happen in five years though, and in Tom’s world there have definitely been some life-altering events.
Two years ago, everything changed for Tom. Two years ago, Tom’s uncle died a sudden tragic death, re-opening old wounds for the Finches and Mackees as they, for the second time in their lives, must bury an empty coffin.
The crippling loss of his kind and charismatic Uncle Joe, who was incredibly understanding and always gave the perfect advice, has isolated Tom from those he cared for the most. His mother and sister have moved away while his father gets himself together. (Tom stayed, refusing to leave him behind.) But soon Dominic, his father, took off out of the blue, leaving Tom feeling stranded literally and figuratively.
As you may be able to tell, this book is similar to its predecessor in terms of tone and atmosphere. A lot of dark that you have to push through, but when the light shines and there are happy moments, it’s quite worth it.
This time around, Tom is the one who needs saving. But the one who is most qualified for the job is none other than the “psycho Tara Finke” who is all the way in another country. And even if she were there, Tara has no desire whatsoever to help him after their infamous “one and a half night stand” two years ago.
And so it is up to Tom to save his family and himself.
The book begins with Tom getting kicked out of his flat and moving in with his pregnant Aunt Georgie, who is our other protagonist. With Georgie comes a whole bunch of new characters, like her and Tom’s family, her friends and their families, and her ex-boyfriend, Sam, who just so happens to be the father of her unborn child. Yeah, there’s a lot to process.
Although Georgie is struggling with the loss of her younger brother, the most apparent problem she has is her inability to announce and celebrate her pregnancy. Enough time has passed that it is obvious and her family and friends voice their hurt and confusion as to why she will not acknowledge something that should be a happy occasion.
At first, I wanted nothing to do with Georgie–as far as I was concerned she was taking away pages that could have focused on Tom. But I became attached to her very early on. She provoked many questions from me. I wanted to know what the lovable Sam had done to destroy all that they had together. I wanted to know why she couldn’t talk about her baby–was she ashamed of revealing that she could still be with Sam even after whatever it was he did? Was she just not ready to be a mother? Why couldn’t she confide in her friends? I needed to know more about all of her strained relationships.
(Side note: It hit me so hard when she finally did reveal why.)
At one point in the story, I think I even looked forward to Georgie’s chapters more than Tom’s, but then I’d start reading Tom’s and never want to stop until, of course, I read the first page of the next Georgie-chapter.
But this, naturally, I should have expected in a Melina Marchetta novel. Her strong suit is in creating complex, lovable, three-dimensional characters. Each character is just as important as the last.
Also, Georgie kind of gives us a break from the heaviness you feel with Tom. I mean it definitely wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows with her (not by a long shot), but Tom it seemed was just falling deeper and deeper into this invisible oblivion, and no one could stop him.
“I can do oblivion, you know. I can do it better than him. I’d like to see how he likes it if I just disappear from his life without a word. It was okay for him to keep in contact with Georgie and my mum, but not once did he pick up the phone or write to me. Like I was fucking nothing to him. Like I’m nothing to no one.”
Pretty heavy stuff.
“But grieving people are selfish. They won’t let you comfort them and they say you don’t understand and they make you feel useless when all your life you’ve been functional to them.”
It’s also interesting to see the parallels between both Georgie and Tom, in the ways that they decide to deal (or, rather, not deal) with their grief and their problems. They both have friends they have known for years and would do anything to help them, but it’s hard to help someone who doesn’t want to be helped and is just so, so mean to the people around him.
All in all, I recommend this for those who loved Saving Francesca or the book Where She Went. Saving Francesca is closer to my heart due to its subject matter I could closely identify with, but its sequel isn’t far behind (hence the 4.9-star rating). And even though Where She Went was great, I must say The Piper’s Son is a thousand times better.
Again, this book is pretty heavy, so keep in that in mind before picking it up, but I truly do believe it is all worth it for those who love profound, character-driven stories.
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