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Cures for Heartbreak Paperback – Bargain Price, August 12, 2008
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From School Library Journal
Starred Review. Grade 9 Up—Black humor, pitch-perfect detail, and compelling characters make this a terrific read, despite the pain that permeates every superbly written page. Ninth-grader Mia has just lost her mother to cancer, and now her father is hospitalized with heart trouble. The story follows her first through bleak days at the hospital, then as she copes with her grief for her mother, her father's new girlfriend, and her sometimes disastrous attempts to find love. Interwoven throughout the book are Mia's musings over her family's history and the continuing tragic impact of the Holocaust. The novel's vivid New York City setting is almost another character, with vibrant descriptions of subway rides, shopping trips, and local color. Mia's early experience with loss influences everything about her life, from her bond with her father and older sister to her troubles with school and relationships. As she struggles to make sense of her mother's death and her father's illness, she also sees humor in everyday situations, and her irreverent commentary brings the story to life. Mia's romance with Sasha, a young man whose leukemia is in remission, is especially moving. A touching afterword reveals just how closely the novel follows the author's actual experiences.—Miranda Doyle, San Francisco Public Library
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Library Binding edition.
*Starred Review* "I was ashamed of my family for having such bad luck." In the same year, teenage Mia's mother dies of cancer and her father has a heart attack. In stand-alone chapters (versions of some have been published in magazines), Raab gives Mia a distinctive voice, leavening her heartbreak with surprising humor and dark absurdity. Rabb is an exceptionally gifted writer who draws subtle connections between abstract history and intimate lives, particularly in scenes contrasting the dry school coverage of the Holocaust with Mia's Jewish family's personal history--"the kind of history that seeps in slowly and colors everything, like a quiet, daily kind of war." In Mia, Rabb creates a remarkable character whose ordinary teen experiences--crushes, friendships, sexual fumblings, mortification over her family's behavior--seem all the more authentic set within the larger tragedies. With almost unbearable poignancy, Mia talks about how to grow up, survive loss and family history, and heal her heart: "If grief had a permanence, then didn't also love?" Readers will cherish this powerful debut. Gillian Engberg
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Library Binding edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
The book is about Mia, her growing up and her healing. Along the way, we see some of her father's story and her sister's story as well. Each of them is an interesting character, but only Mia is truly compelling. Mia meets some very intriguing people along the way, usually through her father's hospital stays. We see all the other characters through Mia's teenage eyes, and it is quite a sight.
The author does a wonderful job of showing us Mia's grief without wallowing in it. We see her explosion at school, and her sorting through her memories of her mother. We see her translate her concern for her health as well as her father's into an obsession with healthy eating, and a panic over her own mole. We also see a number of normal teenage moments in a not-so-normal situation. We see Mia's search for a new best friend, and her quest for a boyfriend, which swings between funny, touching, and (at one point) terrifying.
This book was a very quick read, seeming even shorter than its 238 pages. I read it in one sitting, and we all found it moved quickly. The book delivers what it promises, so if the description appeals to you, give the book a try.
Margo Rabb's writing is both eloquent and moving. She drops clever observations and brilliant turns of phrase like little gifts for the reader. But at the same time, she's not afraid to write about what really matters. You can tell, even without the explanatory afterword, that she actually experienced the emotions that she describes. There's a level of emotional honesty here that can't be faked. Here is an example that shows Mia's grief:
"I couldn't stop crying. I knew it was the wrong time to cry publicly now, so late for my mother's death, so prematurely for my father's. What no one ever tells you is that people don't die all at once, but again and again in waves, before their deaths and after. ... I kept crying until my sister put her arms around me, my fallen eyelashes folded inside a crumpled tissue, and said "Come on," and took me to the cafeteria to eat."
And here is a small example of Margo Rabb's poetic eloquence:
"Businessmen marched up Fifth like a gray tweed parade; we strode to the bakery and gazed at the pastries rising like a hundred half-moons in the window."
I think that, among other things, this book is about is how the major wounds that people sustain are passed from generation to generation. Mia's Jewish mother was a baby when she left Europe just before the Holocaust. But she (the mother) was still scarred by it, by the empty branches in her family tree, and by the impact of the genocide on her parents, who never hugged her. She in turn caused grief for Mia, and Mia's father, through her own insecurities (though she unquestionably loved her daughter). Traumatic events leave long shadows.
I think that Margo Rabb is incredibly brave, to be able to share her feelings about the loss of her parents through this novel. Anyone who has ever suffered a loss will be able to relate to Mia's inappropriate laughter, bouts of tears, and attachment to everything that her mother ever touched. The magic is that the book ends with a sense of hope.
So what are the cures for heartbreak? For Mia, they include shopping, eating junk food, finding a best friend, and looking for love (because "A crush removed the world, at least for a little while"). But I think that what Margo Rabb is showing here is that the real cure for heartbreak is to live your life to the fullest, even though the grief from the loss of a parent will never entirely go away. Highly recommended.
A slightly longer version of this book review was originally published on my blog, Jen Robinson's Book Page, on February 25, 2007.
In CURES FOR HEARTBREAK, Margo Rabb introduces us to 15-year-old Mia Perlman, whose mother dies 12 days after being diagnosed with melanoma. In her efforts to cope with the aftermath and learn new ways to relate to her older sister, Alex, and her father, Mia begins to reconstruct her own life through a review of her mother's past and a careful study of Mia's present life. In dealing with her grief, Mia confronts fears of her own mortality, the shifting paradigm of life with just her father, and her own forays into love (all with mixed results).
What makes Mia's heartbreak hit home is the skill with which Rabb paints a complete portrait of bereavement. Where some books rely on presenting a protagonist who dwells on the loss of someone wholly wonderful, Rabb chooses to explore the more complex path to healing, one not drenched in sappy sentimentality but rather an assault of all knowledge of the person who is lost. We see not only Mia's sadness at losing a confidant and nurturer but also her less happy memories of her mother: an unconfirmed marital indiscretion, suspected hypochondria, surliness and melancholy.
More importantly, Rabb concentrates not on the brooding and self-pity that can often permeate this type of novel but on an examination of death's antithesis --- love --- as it touches the lives of her father, her mother and even Mia herself. As a result, each chapter collides and colludes to offer both the familiar and the uncharted with humorous and touching detail, breaking and mending the reader's heart in turns.
CURES FOR HEARTBREAK tells it like it is --- there is no comprehensive, sure way out of loss. There is only a drive to comprehend how that loss fits into our lives --- past, present and future --- and our efforts (experimental, at best) to accommodate these new rules into who we are. And as bleak as that can often seem, Rabb assures us with the authority of someone who's been there that as hopeless as the endeavor can feel, a "cure" can present itself in the most unexpected but wonderful way.
--- Reviewed by Brian Farrey
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The focus is on Mia, a teen whose mother dies 12 days after being diagnosed with Melanoma.Read more