Review Blog

Jan 04 2013

Ketchup clouds by A. Pitcher

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Orion Publishing Group, 2012. 296p. ISBN 9781780620305.
(Age: 14+) Highly Recommended. Realistic. In My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece, Annabel Pitcher described the breakdown of a family after a child's death. This subject matter is sustained in her last book, Ketchup Clouds. However, the narrator's role in the tragedy is pivotal even if less circumstantial than in McEwan's Atonement. In both, the confusion of young love evokes a palpable absolution in readers despite calamitous consequences.
Retold from Zoe's perspective, we can understand how she unintentionally came to be playing two brothers at once by seeing Aaron behind Max's back. We see how she struggled with both her kindness and her true feelings, to change the spiralling tragedy. Why didn't she simply invent a gross habit and get herself conveniently dumped? But Zoe's guilt, exacerbated by the boys' grieving mother, leads her to enter into a correspondence with a murderer on Death Row in Texas, who was convicted of a crime of passion. The letter format works well for a slow reveal confession and the exercise of unburdening, not to a psychologist or priest but to a kindred spirit, is believable. Whether she actually sent the letters to Stuart Harris or not is unclear but she certainly never received a response or never wanted one given her fictitious return address.
The double tragedy is that our decisions sometimes mean that there is no going back, condemning the penitent to a half-life of compromise and suppressed memories. Pitcher has written another engaging cautionary tale - this time in the epistolary tradition. Young adults will not easily forget it.
Deborah Robins

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