Francine Prose’s Goldengrove is a truly remarkable book that appealed to so many parts of me. Nico is thirteen the summer her older sister Margaret drowns in the pond outside their home. Margaret was everything anyone could love, passionate and beautiful, stubborn and sultry, with the voice of an angel and a love for classic movies and their stars. Nico’s life falls apart, and her parents do as well, leaving Nico to find a way to cope on her own. Nico’s mother has lost herself in pills and her father may be having an affair. She finds friendship and understanding from Margaret’s boyfriend, Aaron. Without her parents guidance, Nico finds herself in a bit over her head, and she and Aaron are changed by their own and each other’s grief.
Even without personal tragedy in our lives, I think many will see aspects of themselves within Nico- as we were at the boundary between childhood and adulthood. Nico is so clear in her thinking despite her grief. You root for her family to be okay, but ask yourself again and again how they could possibly be okay after the loss they experienced. Nico’s father owns Goldengrove bookstore, and the descriptions of the store are just lovely. Actually, the whole story is lovely. It almost reads as a poem, and it has been a long time since I have been able to visualize another life and another world the way I was able to in Goldengrove. The novel is also very intelligent, with references to music, art, literature, and film that made the story that much more real. A wonderful and beautiful work!