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 favourite 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.
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Another character driven plot – hey, I’m getting better at recognising them – and I’ll be honest, I don’t think they’re really for me. I appreciate a good character arc, but I need a little action alongside it. I also find the book tricky to define because it’s kind of a sequel to Saving Francesca (which I loved) but it’s also more of a companion novel because it follows a different character. Saving Francesca was a YA story, the characters being teenagers and story taking place in a high school, but The Piper’s Son takes place five years later with university only spoken about. Does this make it New Adult? Who knows. Books like this don’t need defining, I guess, because if you’re reading it, you’re in it for the characters.
And more than just the characters, you’re in it for their relationships with one another. I’m a sucker for characters establishing a close relationship over the phone, so Tom and Tara’s late night conversations were a definite highlight for me, as was the Francesca and Will reunion. I managed to keep up with Tom’s relationship with his aunt, but beyond that his family members were a little hazy. I liked the family back story, confusing though it was at times, and appreciated their efforts to keep the family together through adversity. I found I wasn’t that invested in Georgie’s storyline and music as redemption isn’t something I can get on board with particularly easily either.
So, sure, not a lot happened and the book included one of my pet peeves of YA literature – chunks of song lyrics that I’m supposed to care about – but Marchetta’s writing was, as always, compulsively readable and full of Australian-isms that I loved. Her characters were flawed, they dealt with real problems and they were always on the lookout for redemption. By the end of the story, some of them might even have found it.