When June’s uncle, a renowned painter, dies, she isn’t prepared for all the family secrets that begin to emerge in this really engrossing, emotional coming-of-age tale that adults or teens will enjoy.
The small intricacies of growing up are beautifully invoked – the rising recognition that adult behaviour is less than perfect. Before too long, June begins to have secrets of her own to keep from her family.
June and her sister, Greta, used to be close, but Greta is going up fast and June (13), has learned to look out ‘for the nice things buried in the rest of the mean stuff’.
June is a loner, her time is spent fantasising about living in Medieval times. She likes nothing better than going into the woods to pretend she’s in another time and she feels Greta has become a stranger, ‘In every corner, clothes lay crumpled and piled. Lipsticks and eyeliners that had rolled to the edge of Greta’s uneven desk and rested against a photocopy of the South Pacific script.’
Devastated by her uncle’s death from a mysterious illness, June makes an attempt to reconnect with her sister, but she only doubts when Greta is suddenly keen to invite her to parties. Instead she finds she is drawn to a strange man who hovers on the sidelines at her uncle’s funeral.
How could her beloved uncle have been so close to someone June has never even heard of? What is she to make of a friend she never knew existed and someone her mother clearly hates?
It’s a wonderful story about how to try to reconnect with your family as you are growing up, the changing relationship between siblings and how you can lose someone by not accepting them for what they truly are.
It’s also a story about love and loss, and how these can take many forms. But mostly it is about how when one falls in love, the world changes, all your friends and family can recede into the distance, and whether relationships you shared as children – can they ever be recaptured?
It’s a fine coming of age story, with an unusual angle on ‘first love’ and the gradual understanding of complex family relationships. It’s a great story about sisters and how re-finding that simple closeness you shared as children doesn’t always come easy when you leave childhood behind.
And it’s a great story about how the people you love don’t always do the best things for all the wrong reasons, but that compassion can make us whole again. Enjoy.