Monday, January 18, 2010

Review: "Where We Have To Go" by Lauren Kirshner

Meet Lucy. She's an imaginative 11-year-old whose parents are on the verge of splitting up. Her father is a failed glamour photographer and a travel agent who doesn't travel. He's also a recovering alcoholic battling his personal demons at weekly AA meetings. Her mother is larger-than-life, a former beauty queen in her native Bulgaria and a lover of the antique mannequins that represent their little family. As her parents continue to fight, Lucy begins to grasp that all is not well in her household, and when another woman is introduced into the volatile mix, Lucy and her mother move out of the house in pursuit of a better life. The story continues to follow Lucy and her family as they work through the pain of infedelity, the uncertainty of trying to become a family again, her grandfather's illness, anorexia and the inability to fit in in high school. We watch her grow up in the 1990's, and eventually she blossoms into a young college student with a new outlook on life.

Where We Have to Go is an absolutely beautiful coming-of-age story. In the beginning Lucy is a gawky girl on the verge of adolescence with no breasts to speak of and the habit of counting things to ward off bad events. This hint of her obsessive-compulsiveness develops into full-blown anorexia in her teen years when she realizes that she doesn't fit in at school. This part hit particularly close to home for me. I didn't have anorexia in school, but I certainly didn't fit in with the popular girls, despite my desire to. Reading this book brought all of that awkwardness back, along with a sense of relief that I am now past my teenage years and am a (relatively) well-adjusted adult. Lauren Kirshner manages to take those feelings of highschool aniexty and channels them into some great material.

Her characters were also really well-developed, particularly the character of Lucy's grandfather. He was a secondary character, but I could picture him, especially when he leans his cane against the wall of his nursing home, pretending that he doesn't need it, so that he can hit on the pretty young nurses. Lauren Kirshner has written a great debut novel, one that will beg to be read again.

Thank-you to Lauren Kirshner and McClelland Publishers for this review copy!

Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Recommended to: Those who enjoy coming-of-age stories, fiction lovers, and those who are looking to read more Canadian authors
Challenges: 2010 100+ Reading Challenge, New Author Challenge 2010

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