A recipient of the Alva Englund Fellowship and the Maurice Prize for Fiction, Melanie Thorne penned this tender debut brimming with evocative prose. At 14, Elizabeth Reid is searching for a place she and her sister Jaime can call home. Neglected by a father with more vices than work ethic and ignored by a mother bent on starting a new life with an ex-con, Liz bounces between distant relatives in California and Utah. But before Liz can find peace, she must come to terms with the ugly deal she struck to ensure Jaime's safety - one that has a hold on them both.
1. This book follows in fine tradition of literary survivor fiction.
There is something fascinating about literary fiction focused on troubled homes. It's kindof like a trainwreck--much is constantly at stake for the main character, they make mistakes, and I can't stop watching. White Oleander by Janet Fitch and Bastard Out of Carolina are not only compelling examples of this genre, but also of great writing.
Like those two books, Hand me Down is about a young girl Liz in a bad family situation. Her father is an alcoholic that their mother has finally freed herself from. But now her new husband Terrance is out of jail. Terrance's record as a sex offender means that Liz and her sister Jamie cannot live in their mom's house. Why will they end up? Nobody knows.
2. Liz is a strong and admirable character.
Because Liz is an older sister, she is especially watchful and careful. So much though that no one else seems to believe her caution is necessary. It's an attitude problem that makes her dislike Terrance, she's a stick in the mud for not living with her drunkard father, she's overprotective for admonishing her little sis for smoking.
But the girl has balls and actually does speak her mind in this book. In a traumatic environment, this is not easy to do. While the adults close to her seem to forget their responsibilities, Liz stands for herself but mostly for her sister.
The other characters also are real and vivid.
3. This book is a great example that trauma can occur without direct abuse.
Thankfully there is no rape or violence on Liz or Jamie in this book. They end up OK thanks to Liz.
But that doesn't mean that Liz's constant state of upset and fear were not legitimate.
4. Liz is a poet.
Just like Astrid from White Oleander, the main character from Hand Me Down sees the world in a unique light. Unable to trust the present or her present home, she keeps to herself. She's sensitive, thoughtful and full of unspoken observations.
I enjoy characters such as these because they think a bit like me. Even in a world of darkness there are beautiful moments that you can churn over and over in your mind.
5. Excellent narration for the book on tape.
Definitely a nice car ride read-- it got me to stick around in the car when I arrived home. That's a great sign. The different character voices were well done.