Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Books of our youth: Empathy and transformation

My guest-post series continues, with more discussion of the books that influenced us while we were growing up. Today's guest is Laurel Garver, writing about a book that had a great impact on me as well.


When I was twelve and going through a painful growth spurt (four inches in six months), I fell in love with Lois Lowry’s beautiful coming-of-age story A Summer to Die. I was immediately drawn to Meg, the awkward, brainy girl and budding photographer who lives in the shadow of her sister, the beautiful cheerleader. The family moves to the country for a year, and Meg  is forced to share a room with Molly. To escape the constant feuds with her sister, Meg befriends her neighbors--an elderly man and a young couple expecting their first baby. 

When Molly’s constant nosebleeds are diagnosed as cancer, Meg goes into a tailspin, no longer able to hold on to her old role of enemy. She must learn to open herself to love and pain, to become a supporter and survivor when illness shatters her family. 

This story shaped me deeply as a reader and a writer. I realized stories can be more than an escape. They can also train us in empathy. As we walk through experiences with characters and suffer with them, we also vicariously experience their transformation. And better yet, we feel less alone in our own struggles.


That aspect of realistic fiction--creating companionship--led me to dust off a trunked story idea about a teen stuggling through the loss of a parent. I’d lost my own father a few years before and found that giving voice to Dani’s grief helped me journey through my own.


Laurel Garver (@LaurelGarver on Twitter) is the author of Never Gone, a young adult novel about a grieving teen who believes her dead father has returned as a ghost to help her reconcile with her estranged mother. View the trailer. Add it on Goodreads. It is available at Amazon.com, Amazon UK, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, CreateSpace.

8 comments:

  1. Thanks for having me come by today, Jenn. It was fun to talk about my favorite tween book!

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  2. So interesting! I've never read that book but I can see why you would love it!

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  3. I haven't read this Lowry book. I think it was her first one, right? Lowry is an amazing writer.

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    1. Yes, it's one of Lowry's earliest novels. Came out in the late 70s I think. One of my older brothers gave it to me as a gift when I was a kid. He has an excellent eye for what I like to read!

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  4. I remember reading this book. It's a powerful story.

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    1. It is powerful, and very tightly written. I was surprised on re-reading just how much she packed into a few pages.

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