Title: The Piper’s Son
Author: Melina Marchetta (Saving Francesca)
Genre: Contemporary/New Adult
Publisher: Candlewick Press
The award-winning author of Finnikin of the Rock and Jellicoe Road pens a raw, compelling novel about a family’s hard-won healing on the other side of trauma.
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 now 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 friends, and reckon with his grieving, alcoholic father. Tom’s in no shape to mend what’s broken. But what if no one else is 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.
I was definitely nervous to read this book. I loved, loved, loved Saving Francesca, and this was a sequel to that book, taking place roughly four or five years later, if I recall correctly. I’d only read Saving Francesca from Melina Marchetta, so what if it was a fluke and she was a one-hit wonder for me? I finally put aside my fears, though, and just read the damn thing already – and I really shouldn’t have worried so much.
I’m starting to feel like a broken record during this category, but the beginning was the bumpiest part for me. This is mainly because I started the book as an audiobook. No matter how little success I have with them, I keep trying. When I was trying to find an audiobook to try out, I discovered that I tended to like male narrators better. Of course, this is a problem since the majority of books on my to-read shelf are narrated by female protagonists and thus have female narrators on audiobooks, but this had a male, Australian narrator. That definitely snagged my attention, and it started off fairly well, but I just wasn’t able to get into it as much as I wanted, so I just bought a cheap copy of the book online and started over. I’m glad I did – I didn’t miss much, but I got into the story so much easier once I was reading it. There’s probably the perfect audiobook out there for me, but this one unfortunately wasn’t it – I’m just way too picky when it comes to that format.
This is the story of both Thomas and his aunt Georgia; most chapters alternate between their perspectives. Both are trying to simply live their lives, and they often do a bad job of it. This book is the story of them trying to do that and simply figure out how to be happy, despite all the shit that life throws at them. It’s about Tom reconnecting with his friends from his old life – aka the characters I loved in Saving Francesca – as well as the family he’s been struggling with, who are all new characters to me. This book was definitely character-driven.
Thus, the characters are really important. Tom is meaner and much more complicated than he ever seemed in Saving Francesca, but no matter how much his actions might frustrate me, I never had it in me to hate him and wish that I was in someone else’s head. Well, that’s not totally true – I would have loved to get in Francesca’s head again, but maybe I’ll get a surprise sequel at some point that does just that. But I was definitely happy with the characters I did get, even if I wasn’t in their head. Tom and Georgia’s family was especially interesting and I would have loved to get to know them even better. There wouldn’t have to be a plot or anything – I simply wanted to see them all interacting together even more. I was a little disappointed that some of the characters I loved from the first book, like Siobhan, didn’t have big roles at all, but again, I’ll keep hoping for a surprise sequel for that.
This book takes place in Australia – Sydney, I think – but as with the first book, it never felt that different from a book taking place in the US – probably because Australia isn’t really all that different. It still did feel different enough that I really want to go to Australia now, though.
The New Adult Situation
As I was writing this review, I suddenly realized that this book is a new adult book – or at least, according to my definition of what new adult is. Despite how much new adult is associated with way too many sex scenes and little else, it’s more than that to me. I think new adult is about that that time in between teenagerhood and adulthood. Georgia might be an actual adult, but it can feel like she’s stuck in the same space that Tom is – that awkward time where he’s no longer a child but still isn’t quite an adult. This book fits that genre – he’s still living with his family, but not his parents, and he’s done with school, at least for the time being. So, despite the lack of sex scenes and angst, I think this does qualify as a new adult book – a fascinating one.
I actually didn’t care for the romance that much. I love Tom and I think Tara can be a very interesting character, but I didn’t care for their relationship that much. There was quite a bit of angst surrounding their past relationship and whether they could repair it, and I simply didn’t care that much about it.
The ending was a bit bittersweet. It was quite sad to see it all end and leave behind all these characters that I either already loved or had come to love, but I still wanted to see what would happen, so I definitely didn’t want to slow down. This book definitely made me cry, just like its predecessor, but it also made me smile.
This book felt different from Saving Francesca, so I don’t know if I can quite compare them. I loved both of them and connected to them in different ways. Either way, I’m definitely planning on checking out more from Marchetta – although I have to admit that the fear and pressure is already starting to sink back in!