I have just laid down The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta, and I feel eviscerated. Few novels demand me to immerse myself completely, to drag my eyes along every word and every syllable until I am as much trapped within the text as within the physical world. From the moment I opened this book until the moment I turned the last page, it held me its prisoner.
I’ve sung Marchetta’s praises before, but she honestly blew me away with this story. I read Saving Francesca a few years ago and loved the eccentric mix of characters who seemed so darn real despite the heightened, sometimes manic episodes they sometimes found
themselves in. Of the many wonderful characters Marchetta introduced, I wished she had spent a bit more time unravelling one Thomas Mackee, and so was thrilled to hear that she would be revisiting the characters in a story told from Tom’s point of view.
What’s striking about The Piper’s Son, particularly for those familiar with the characters from Saving Francesca, is how utterly faithful it is to the experience of reconnecting with someone you were once close with. So much can happen in five years’ time, especially during the tumultuous time known as one’s twenties, and the seemingly frustrated yet cheerful Tom Mackee from the first novel is nowhere to be seen at The Piper’s Son‘s start. My heart truly ached for Tom, because while his actions throughout the beginning of the story do not invite much sympathy, I understand how thoroughly someone’s life can go from normal to upside-down overnight, and how one might not recognize oneself in the mirror from one morning to the next.
I loved how Marchetta managed to remind readers that this is the same world as in Saving Francesca while still firmly establishing that this is Tom’s story, filtered through his own feelings and sensibilities. Tom’s personality rings true, all the more impressive a feat considering that his point of view makes up only half of the story, and that told in third person. While Saving Francesca was undoubtedly a young adult story, I have trouble relegating The Piper’s Son strictly to that camp. Not only have the characters aged by five years (granted, still placing them within their early twenties), but half the story centers around Tom’s middle-aged aunt Georgie as she serves as an alternate perspective to the repercussions that lost lives and love have had on the Mackee family.
I feel as if I could go on for ages, yet at the same time my feelings for this story are so raw that it is difficult to push them out into words. Young adult readers will relate to the story, yet if anything it is truly just a great work of fiction. The glories and heartaches of love make up the themes of each character’s life, yet there is no sap, no cliche. For anyone who has felt stranded in their own life, a phenomenon which few seem to escape, this story will remind you that you aren’t alone, and that it isn’t forever.