Books: The Magic of Melina

So, it’s fitting that my induction into ‘Stage Two’ begins with a book rant, but don’t worry, it’s all positive.

It’s about this magician called Melina Marchetta, whose thoughts are transcribed seamlessly into words, paragraphs, and stories, and how lucky for all of us, that her words are published into these wonderful, public semblances: books.

She is an Australian author who specializes in novels about fragmented adolescents (and in the case of The Piper’s Son, a fragmented adult) at ‘different’ schools.Screen shot 2014-07-15 at 6.55.10 PM

Her masterpiece is hard-to-call tie between On the Jellicoe Road and The Piper’s Son, both of which hold a place in my heart and have led me to question several previously-firm beliefs that I held about identity and family.

Jellicoe Road, first introduced to me by co-contributer Naina, is a story about a girl, Taylor Markham, and her story of finding herself, discovering her past, and building strong relationships and a future, which is interlaced with another story of a previous generation of best friends bonded through tragedy and live a luscious life that grew from it. Initially an indifferent, rugged (positively-worded, strong and highly independent) character trudges through life, testing all her relationships to breaking point and questioning her existence because of her abandoned and fragmented past with her drug-ridden, alcoholic ruin of a mother. As she becomes leader of her school, a position that was thrust upon her by mere precedent and no vote of confidence, she develops strength to deal with her past as she reads through a manuscript of the story of that previous generation and meets her lifelong friends and love.

Anyway, apart from the beautiful characters, Marchetta creates worlds that I long to be a part of and lures me in without any promise fantasy or magic since the world has its own magic – cheesy as it sounds, magic of friendship and love. None of the characters seem to fit in at first, but then it becomes their own space as they build the relationships that tie them to the place. Raffa, Santangelo, Griggs, and Taylor. The way they become friends is a new level of unorthodox, but strength of the friendship they form is anything but traditional, falling more along the lines of kinship. As I read, I hope for such a niche, a hope that Marchetta strengthens with every chapter that speaks of possibility for all kinds of characters.

It’s not just deep, its intricate, and the seamless growth and revival from pain, it’s all so subtle that I can’t poke or point my finger anywhere. I’m not just a fangirl, I’m more of a believer.

And I don’t know how to top that, but our magician Marchetta apparently does, because she comes out with The Piper’s Son – the magnificent sequel/spin-off to Saving Francesca (another book for which I have SO MANY feels for, but can’t quite encapsulate right now). This story is one of a young adult, a character Tom Mackee from Saving Francesca, who’s life is in shambles as his beloved uncle has died in a bombing, which drives his Father to abandon his family and indulge in alcohol, Tom to drive a wedge between his friends-who-are-family, the rest of his family to disintegrate and separate, and Tom to do the unforgivable to his one true love, Tara Finke. Never have I been so engrossed by a relationship that mostly takes place over email and a character’s thoughts (like flirting via text!?), but Marchetta introduces this phenomena expertly.

There is so much depression, so many fragments in this story, yet at the same time, there is a small but steady light of hope for recovery, for Tom to put his life back together. He rekindles old friendships, tries to right the wrongs, empathizes and sympathizes, and ultimately, fixes. The book is a backward hurricane, with a mess strewn everywhere, so many pieces that are so wrong, and gleaming into Tom’s mind, it’s hard to see him trying to do anything about it. Yet, as the book progresses, Tom is pushed back into good graces by the simple fact that he is good. He cannot do enough wrong to go astray, he is basically destined to be fixed, and he does, step by step, page by page, see his wrongs, make amends, and become a true person. It’s another one of those seamless transformations into a man from the boy, told through flashback, a series of letters and emails, and Marchetta’s word weaving.

I can’t even begin to encompass how much this book has affected me. It’s difficult to put into words, but it’s like a seeing glass to reevaluate my own life. Through a third person’s view, I can look at it and see exactly where things might have gone wrong, exactly where to fix it. It’s a form of introspection that arises from a novel written in retrospect.

I’m really not just singing praises – I love these books so much and I am thoroughly unable to rid my mind of their lingering presence for days and weeks after each and every time I read them. And I sincerely hope you let this magic into your lives too.

– Manasa

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