Official Stuff –
Author – Therese Walsh
Pages – 336
Publisher – Crown Publishing
A beautiful coming-of-age novel about two sisters on a journey to forgive their troubled mother, with a sheen of almost-magical realism that overlays a story about the love of a family, and especially between sisters.
Therese Walsh’s poignant and mesmerizing novel is a moving tale of family, love, and the power of stories. After their mother’s probable suicide, sisters Olivia and Jazz are figuring out how to move on with their lives. Jazz, logical and forward-thinking, decides to get a new job, but spirited, strong-willed Olivia, who can see sounds, taste words, and smell sights, is determined to travel to the remote setting of their mother’s unfinished novel to say her final goodbyes and lay their mother’s spirit to rest.
Though they see things very differently, Jazz is forced by her sense of duty to help Olivia reach her goal. Bitter and frustrated by the attention heaped on her sunny sister whose world is so unique, Jazz is even more upset when they run into trouble along the way and Olivia latches to a worldly train-hopper. Though Hobbs warns Olivia that he’s a thief who shouldn’t be trusted, he agrees to help with their journey. As they near their destination, the tension builds between the two sisters, each hiding something from the other, and they will finally be forced to face everything between them and decide what is really important.
My Rating – 2 of 5 stars
I received this book for free from LibraryThing on behalf of Crown in exchange for a fair review.
Sigh. I wanted to like this book; it had a pretty cover and an interesting summary about loss and sister relationships. However, I was disappointed.
The book starts out with Olivia talking about the day her mother committed suicide. How she left her that day and how she found her later. Then it skips ahead about five months to Jazz’s point of view. Olivia is heading out on her own, to the bog her mother always wanted to visit, to spread their mother’s ashes. The problem is, Olivia has synesthesia, (which basically means her senses are a little backwards. She can see taste sounds and smell sights) and she is also legally blind, having burned out her retinas staring at the sun for months after her mother’s death (because the sun smelled like her mother).
Olivia is determined and their grandmother talks Jazz into accompanying her. The trip is full of troubles from the start, Jazz being pissed and Olivia doing as she pleases without thinking of the consequences. So desperate to get to the bog, Olivia hops a train and heads out with a group of hobos, when they have car trouble. Among these trainhoppers, is Hobbs; a thief covered in tattoos, which Olivia is almost immediately attracted to. He adds a bit of danger to the sisters’ adventure.
Jazz chases after her, but Olivia keeps pushing, keeps going forward. She needs to get to the bog no matter what. She needs to see the wisps that her mother wished to see.
The book goes back and for the between the sisters. Then also adds in letters the mother wrote. Each sister talks about their childhood and their relationship with their mother and the chapters go back and forth between the past and present day.
The idea was great and the writing was quite beautiful at times, especially in Olivia’s POV when she was talking about the sounds and tastes of different things.
Things I didn’t like? Well Jazz was a royal bitch. I don’t usually like to call female characters bitches but seriously, she was a bitch. She was downright cruel to Olivia and has no sympathy for her, and she was just mean and nasty towards everyone, even in the flashbacks. Jazz had a strained relationship with her mother (Beth); from what I could gather from the flashbacks, the Beth had post-partum depression, plus the fact that she had been disowned by her father. Beth wanted Jazz to make something of herself and attend college and get out of their small town that doesn’t even have a library. Jazz strongly resists and in unnecessarily rude ways.
I didn’t really like Olivia either; she was so childlike and strange. Plus what eighteen year old girl willingly blinds herself?! What kind of blind girl hops on a moving train?! No one seems to think it would be a good idea to get her counseling or some kind of help. Olivia was very close to Beth, having been homeschooled because of her synesthesia. She was the one that found her, and she carries the guilt that she left her mother alone that day.
The secondary characters had this whole history and this giant subplot that felt odd and it didn’t fit into the rest of the story. It could’ve been its own book, honestly. Plus there is instalove between Olivia and Hobbs. At least on Olivia’s side. The secrets the sisters hold from each other are pretty big but the one Jazz is keeping only is really a secret once she finds out what Olivia’s is (basically, it was never really a intentionally kept secret, just more like a thing that was just never shared).
So, unfortunately I felt the book fell very flat and Jazz was way too mean for my liking.