Release Date: March 2010
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Pages: 328 pages
Source & Format: Bought; Kindle ebook & audiobook
Amazon | Goodreads
Summary (from Goodreads)
Award-winning author Melina Marchetta reopens the story of the group of friends from her acclaimed novel Saving Francesca - but five years have passed, and not it's Thomas Mackee who needs saving. After his favorite uncle was blown to bits on his way to work in a foreign city, Tom watched his family implode. He quit school and turned his back on his music and everyone that mattered, including the girl he can't forget. Shooting for oblivion, he's hit rock bottom forced to live with his single, pregnant aunt, work at the Union pub with his former friend, and reckon with his grieving, alcoholic father. Tom's in no shape to mend what's broken. But what if no one else can either? An unflinching look at family, forgiveness, and the fierce inner workings of love and friendship, The Piper's Son redefines what it means to go home again.
Thoughts on The Piper's Son
The Piper's Son is a companion novel to Saving Francesca, a book that I absolutely adored. My favorite thing about companion novels is that, unlike with most series, you're able to spend more time with characters you've loved while reading from the perspective of a different character. The Piper's Son absolutely represents the very best kind of companion novel.
Set five years after Saving Francesca, the book has a third-person narrative that alternates between two points of view. The first is Tom Mackee, the main character and one of Francesca's friends from St. Sebastian's. The second point-of-view is his aunt Georgie, a new character that you don't meet in Saving Francesca. Tom is the primary focus of the book, but the chapters from Georgie's perspective make the book even more layered and complex.
Both Georgie and Tom, really the entire Mackee family, have experienced some devastating losses. Grief, brutally raw and honest, is all over every word in this book. Saving Francesca is a book where depression is central to the story, but this book packs even more of an emotional punch. And yet, it still manages to be hopeful. This is just one more reason Melina Marchetta has become one of my few auto-buy authors.
I don't read many books from a male perspective, but I hate if an author writes from the point-of-view of the opposite gender and it rings false. You know what I mean? Like when a woman writes about a teen boy and you're thinking, "I can't imagine that very many, if any, teen boys really think that way." Well, I'm happy to say that this thought never once crossed my mind while reading The Piper's Son. I don't know what it's like inside a boy's mind, but Tom seemed completely believable and authentic.
When we first meet him, Tom is difficult, frustrating and not very likeable. His grief has made him bitter, retreat into himself and push everyone away. It was painful to read about him, but you also just can't stop. Even when you don't like him, you're still rooting for him to find his way in the world. Melina Marchetta sure knows how to write some heartbreaking scenes and characters. The entire Mackee family is fractured in the wake of the tragedy they've endured, and you can feel the familial tension almost leaping off the page. I absolutely love how important family is in Marchetta's books!
The only downside to Tom's rather large family, and its complex history, is that I was confused about who certain people were at times. I think listening to this as an audio probably contributed a little bit to that confusion as well. After adoring Saving Francesca as an audiobook, I knew that I wanted to try The Piper's Son in audio, too. Read by Michael Finney, I thought the audio was a wonderful way to experience this book. Listening to it really helped me connect with Tom and his perspective. However, I did reference my ebook a few times for more clarification on a few details or characters that I felt like I'd missed while listening.
For future readers, I'd probably recommend starting with the book and then rereading with the audio or doing the audio and book simultaneously, unless you're an experienced audiobook listener. The reason for that is the fact that there are multiple story lines going on in this book: Tom and his family in the wake of the loss of one of their family members, Tom's attempts to reconnect with his St. Sebastian's friends, his relationship with a certain someone, and Georgie's pregnancy and relationship with the baby's father, her ex-boyfriend. Marchetta is a masterful storyteller, and she weaves the different plots together into a unified and cohesive novel that I loved. However, it was definitely a lot to keep track of while listening!
I recently watched an interview with Marchetta on YouTube and she talked about how community and identity are the two themes that she thinks are at the heart of every story she writes. She also discussed how each book she's written has allowed her to write the subsequent book - how she may never have been able to write each particular story if she hadn't written the one before it. I absolutely loved hearing that because you can absolutely see community and identity throughout this book. It ties everything to together, and it's what makes you fall in love with these characters and this story. You can see how The Piper's Son has built on what she's written in her previous books, and I really love that about her as an author.
The Piper's Son felt more adult than anything I've read by Marchetta before, and it's also a very heavy read. There are moments of laughter and levity, but it's definitely a book that makes you feel a little raw inside. All that to say, I loved it! This is everything you could want and more in a companion novel. It stands on its own two feet, but it also just enhances and enriches the world and characters Marchetta has already created if you start by reading Saving Francesca. Meet Francesca, give your heart a rest, and then come meet Tom. He is someone you won't soon forget!
"Maybe she'd always been there. Maybe strangers enter your heart first and then you spent the rest of your life searching for them."
"I’m scared I’m going to spend the rest of my life in a state of yearning, regardless of where I am."