Thursday, January 5, 2012

Bookanista Thursday: HOW TO SAVE A LIFE by Sara Zarr

One of the things I'm most looking forward to in 2012 is reading.  Reading books that make me feel and think and imagine.  HOW TO SAVE A LIFE has been at the top of my TBR pile for a while, and I'm so happy I kicked off the year with it.  What a beautifully told story this one is.  Exactly what I was hoping for!


About the Book:

Jill MacSweeny just wishes everything could go back to normal. But ever since her dad died, she's been isolating herself from her boyfriend, her best friends--everyone who wants to support her. And when her mom decides to adopt a baby, it feels like she's somehow trying to replace a lost family member with a new one.

Mandy Kalinowski understands what it's like to grow up unwanted--to be raised by a mother who never intended to have a child. So when Mandy becomes pregnant, one thing she's sure of is that she wants a better life for her baby. It's harder to be sure of herself. Will she ever find someone to care for her, too?

As their worlds change around them, Jill and Mandy must learn to both let go and hold on, and that nothing is as easy--or as difficult--as it seems.

Critically acclaimed author and National Book Award finalist Sara Zarr delivers a heart-wrenching story, told from dual perspectives, about the many roads that can lead us home.

My Thoughts:

Where to even begin?  The universals, I think, because these are the things at the heart of this story.  In subtle, spare prose, Zarr gives us a story of rediscovering love and trust, overcoming fear, and finding strength in opening up.  How to Save a Life is told in the alternating voices of Jill and Mandy, two vastly different people whose lives converge when the story begins. 

Mandy is running in a lot of ways.  Away from her mother and her mother's boyfriend, from a life that hasn't been kind to her, and a future without any hope for something different.  She first comes off as dreamy and naive, but as her chapters unfold, through memories of her old life and observations about her new one, its obvious that Mandy possesses the great hope and strength of someone who is not only a survivor, but the kind of person who is able to see those qualities in others, even when they can't see them themselves. 

And Jill desperately needs someone to see those things in her.  If Mandy is running, Jill is standing still, her life stalled out since her father's death.  She hides from it, behind a facade of strength that has distanced her from her life before, and all of the people in it.  Her pain is still raw, but buried in layers of dark clothes, heavy makeup, and biting sarcasm.  But there's still a part of her that wants to hope, and love, and heal.  And what I loved most about this story was watching that happen, bit by bit.  

The beauty of Zarr's storytelling is that it's so sincere. The characters thoughts and emotions, the poignant scenes and observations that had me tearing up and reaching for the kleenex--all of this is written with such honesty and heart.  It's the thing I admire most about Zarr's writing.  There's a quiet grace about it that seeps in as you read, and echoes softly long after the story has ended.

When I sit down to read a new book, my hopes are always the same.  I want characters who tug at me heart and make me feel, and a story that casts a new light on life and all of its universals.  This is a story like that.    

You can read more about Sara and her books on her website, her blog, or by following her on Twitter!

And don't forget to check out what the other Bookanistas are talking about this week!

Elana Johnson offers musings on her Bookanista moments

Stasia Ward Kehoe delights in FIVE FLAVORS OF DUMB

Nikki Katz is crazy for ASHFALL

Debra Driza adores ANGEL FALL

Lisa and Laura Roeker fall for SHATTER ME

1 comment:

  1. I can't wait to read this book. It's on the top of my list. Thanks for your enthusiasm, Jessi.