Lorie Ann Grover, Author . S&S/McElderry $16.95 (304p) ISBN 97
In this hard-hitting debut novel, seventh-grade narrator Kay chronicles her grandmother's struggle against breast cancer in free-verse poems. The poetry tackles not only the tactile lumps and "wiggly, jiggly prostheses," but also the more abstract yet realistically sketched stages of denial, anger and grief. Kay's everyday junior high tribulations and insightful observations about friends, crushes and her difficulty coping provide a welcome counterpoint: "School rolls on./ Class after class./ Teachers give assignments./ It's so fake/ when real stuff is going on." Kay also pinpoints the differences between the four generations of women in her home: "Gran Eula/ is so harsh and strict./ Mom is such/ a perfectionist./ What/ are they about?/ It's Grandma Margie who/ is sweet." Grover effectively charts Kay's evolving strength, grace and faith, as her feelings of separateness cause her to befriend the class outcast, to hug her undemonstrative relatives and to tie up the titular loose threads by learning to knit, fight and eventually even let go of Grandma Margie. Throughout Kay offers her fierce, unsentimental perspective, such as at the funeral: "Why should I trust/ two guys with shovels/ who smoked, whispered, and chuckled/ the whole time/ our pastor was praying?" Any reader who has faced cancer, death or just struggled to define his or her own truth will respond to this memorable heroine and the novel's themes of loss, survival and remembrance. Ages 9-12.
Reviewed on: 09/02/2002