It’s rare that a book moves me to tears. But this beautifully written, life-affirming debut novel did just that; not once, but several times.
11-year-old Aubrey is in a devastating place. Slowly and painfully, we find out why. She has survived the car crash in which her father and younger sister, Savannah were killed. Her mother, who was driving the car, is so overcome with grief that she walks out, leaving Aubrey to fend for herself.
Aubrey tries to appear unconcerned by this desertion and carries on bravely during a whole week of canned food and TV, her only company a goldfish she buys herself from the pet shop. Then Aubrey’s Gram arrives to take her granddaughter back to her home in Vermont.
It is there, with the help of Gram, Bridget the girl next door, and other new friends that Aubrey must find a way through her grief, and learn to live a little like normal again. It’s a tough road, and a tough subject for any novelist, let along a debut one. But the simple, unmawkish power of LaFleur’s writing to hold us close to Aubrey whilst she mourns means that her emotional journey quickly becomes ours too. When Aubrey finally finds the courage to talk to those she loves about the things she feels, the sense of redemption is overwhelming. Have a hanky to hand, but hold it secure in the knowledge that you’ll be able to cast it away at the end.