Jamie’s sister lives on the mantelpiece. She gets cake on his birthday. She is very much a presence in their home but Jamie doesn’t really remember her. Jasmine was 10 when she was killed in a terrorist attack. Years later, they still haven’t said goodbye to her ashes. They’ve moved house, but she’s still with them, a constant reminder of how their family isn’t complete.
I was expecting My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece to be much sadder than it was. It is a heart-breaking situation but it is cleverly told from the point of view of Jamie, who was only 5 years old when his sister died. He didn’t really know her to miss her or to really mourn her. What we do see is how his family deals with it, or rather doesn’t deal with it.
It’s interesting to explore the subject of a child’s death from the point of view of the siblings. So often it’s told from the parents’ perspective, where losing a child is the worst thing that could have happened, that shouldn’t have happened. Yet, what about the children left behind? Do they suffer more from their parents’ grief than the loss of the sibling? I felt for Jamie in that he was expected to be sad when he wasn’t, that it just wasn’t something he was old enough to fully grasp.
The father blames Muslims for killing his daughter, so when Jamie befriends a Muslim girl at school, he is torn between loyalty to his family and actually having a real friend. The lack of logic to his dad’s hatred is highlighted by the friendship, but it also makes things difficult at times. Jamie is scared of being “caught out” but also has to deal with how his dad makes him look bad by association.
Later on, there is a very moving scene around an event that does drive it home for him. His family’s pain is put into context and I think his realisation at this point is the part that will really make you cry. Jamie’s a fantastic narrator, and there’s a warmth to the writing despite the difficult subjects.
Also reviewed @ Lovely Treez Reads
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