For my money, Francine Prose is one of a handful of truly essential American novelists. She returns to YA territory here, although this is no garden variety coming-of-age tale.
After the sudden drowning of her older sister, Nico (hippie parents) drifts into a relationship with margaret's enigmatic and equally grief-stricken boyfriend. Set against the aftermath of 9/11, and the unease around the sudden ill health of the lake in the upstate New York setting, Goldengrove tells the poignant and increasingly creepy relationship that cements around shared grief. The age difference and pre-existing anxieties meld to make for a suspenseful and unsettling work from one of my favourite writers.
From an interview with Book Page:
Goldengrove, which takes its title from a poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins, is, as Prose says, "different from any of my other books." Its humor is rarer and warmer and arises from how well Prose inhabits the body and psyche of her immensely appealing narrator, Nico, who is 13 years old during the tragic events of the summer she describes.
"Nico has a very lively mind," Prose says. "Getting her voice right was the hardest part of the novel. I wanted the language to be very elegant and very lyrical. But with a kind of raw emotion all the way through. That's a hard balancing act. It was also challenging to remember what it was like to be that age."
Prose, who is the mother of two adult sons and has recently become a grandmother, says, "I never had a daughter, but teenagers are teenagers, and I have spent a lot of my life around teenagers. My younger son has read the novel and he says 'God, you've ripped off everything about our family and put it in the book.' But no one except my kids and maybe my husband would think there's anything of our family life in this novel. This family is nothing like ours. Nothing. But being my kids, they assume the only way I could have found out there was such a thing as Grand Theft Auto was to have learned it from them, because I am so ignorant otherwise."Dave