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Don't You Forget About Me Paperback – October 21, 2013
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About the Author
Erin McCole Cupp is a wife, mother, and lay Dominican. She has written for Canticle Magazine, The Catholic Standard and Times, Parents, The Philadelphia City Paper, and the newsletter of her children’s playgroup. Her first novel, Jane_E, Friendless Orphan: A Memoir is available on Amazon
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There is another reason not to go: she was the one who found the body of Tony Vitale, the boy who drowned in Quaker Creek. Who wants to remember that? Gene was her lone friend in those awful years, and when the request for a meeting at the funeral comes, she can't say no. The city she remembered as doing its best to die is now thriving, a veritable yuppy-ville. In spite of the new prosperity all around, when Cate shows up at the viewing, things feel off. It seems karma has come to her old classmates with a vengeance.
This is a skillful, intricate book, one plot twist follows another with increasing speed. It is well-done, a fascinating read. I am not good at reading between the lines, and this book has plenty of lines I felt like I had to read between, but the book is so good that I can't even take any stars away for being left in the dark and forced to guess. I got enough of the meaning that I couldn't put it down.
In fact, I enjoyed it so much I think I'm going to give it another read!
The story starts with the main character, Cate, a successful-but-still-a-little-insecure author, about to head back to her hometown for the funeral of her old principal-- a place where her growing-up years were, shall we say, difficult. But the visit home, which starts out only as awkward as expected, takes a turn for the worse when strange things start happening, including a mysterious death. Cate and her grade-school crush, Gene (now an OB/GYN) find themselves investigating and getting drawn in deeper than might be good for them. What is the Curse of '87? How did Sister Thomas Marie really die?
This book was great because it worked on two levels. The "murder mystery" part can stand on its own as an exciting story with intrigue and unexpected twists. The characters are interesting and easy to identify with. But there are also interesting "theology of the body" questions brought up-- what happens to women (not just physically, but emotionally) who are put on contraceptives, even when it's for totally licit, non-contraceptive purposes? And why are such treatments so prevalent, even when there might be better options out there? The questions aren't answered in a trite way-- they aren't even really answered at all, but I think that's a good thing (especially for a novel). It's sometimes enough to just ask the questions. The great thing was that the "theology of the body" bits were woven into the story so that they didn't really seem at all unnatural or tacked-on.
Erin Cupp’s new book, Don’t You Forget About Me, caught me completely off guard. I purchased it initially, because the title was intriguing and reminiscent of warm memories of my childhood; the 1980s were golden years to me because of my naivete and capricious nature at the time. When I realized it was fiction, I thought, What the heck. I’ll give it a chance.
I’m glad I did.
Don’t You Forget About Me is what I would consider cultural fiction, its main plot a mystery but with a supporting romantic theme; Cupp writes in a succinct clarity that is unparalleled to most modern “big name” fiction writers these days. She is not only capable of portraying a very realistic image of modern Pennsylvania (tomato pie, anyone?) with a retrospective of the same setting in the 1980s, but her use of time is also impeccable and flawless. Her character development of Mary Catherine, Gene, and Stasi are so lifelike that I found myself believing I actually knew them, and what’s more, I liked them. They were like my friends: quirky, eccentric, not quite fitting in with the “popular” crowd growing up and yet, as adults, they ended up very successful and comfortable with themselves.
Each chapter is titled with a different tune from the 1980s, and each song very appropriately conveyed and encompassed that particular chapter’s development of the plot; in an odd way, this added a touch of nostalgia as I was reading what was otherwise a murder mystery in which Mary Catherine and Gene – long-time friends who were estranged after attending Catholic grade school in rural Pennsylvania – come together after attending their former principal’s funeral to solve some puzzling questions surrounding the principal’s death, as well as the death of one of their elementary classmates many decades prior. These both seem to be connected to the subplot surrounding the mysterious illnesses and deaths of their elementary classmates. Of course, their relationship portrays an intensity and tension that one would desire when learning about two people who have obvious unresolved chemistry between them, but what I love about this story is that it is a wholesome romance. I was relieved when there were no sex scenes or even intimations of sexual contact, and further, I was overjoyed when Gene’s devout Catholic faith influenced how he approached the unresolved questions of the status of his relationship with Mary Catherine.
Don’t You Forget About Me is a refreshing work of literary genius, a genius that is inspired by Cupp’s obvious devout and deeply rooted Catholic faith. Not only is the story well-written (and edited, I might add), but its theme is exemplary as a portrayal of heroic morality in a culture and society that is sympathetic to the widespread use of contraception, loose sexual mores, and otherwise extinct covenanted marriages. Cupp’s characters are relevant but not disconnected to truth, and the consequences of contraceptive use becomes a grave reality that is explored with raw honesty enveloped in charity. What makes her characters so amiable is the raw emotion that is so often depicted with necessary intensity that is mingled with soul searching and spiritual transformation; in many ways, her characters represent all of humanity, in that we all must wrestle from time to time with our weaknesses and sins, facing ourselves as our souls are confronted with truth.
Thanks to Cupp, there are various options of literature to satiate the appetite of avid fiction readers, those who love a good murder mystery, and those who cherish a sweet and endearing romantic love – but without the violence, wickedness, and filth that so often is expected in the media these days. For those who appreciate truth, beauty, and goodness, Don’t You Forget About Me is a must-read.