Thursday, November 3, 2016

November's Book of the Month--Unbecoming

November’s Book of the Month is UNBECOMING, by Jenny Downham, a story about three generations of red-headed women dealing with life, love, and dementia.

Katie’s grandmother, Mary, suddenly turns up, and she's having trouble with her memory. She doesn’t recognize Katie, Katie's brother Chris, or even her own daughter, Katie’s mother Caroline. To make matters worse, Caroline and Mary have had an extremely difficult relationship, and Caroline bitterly resents having to take Mary in. It’s a mess, but Katie feels drawn to the mysterious grandmother she never knew she had.

While Mary’s dementia is a challenge, Katie also struggles with her own issues. Like being seventeen and getting tormented for kissing her best friend Esme, dealing with intense pressure from her mom to be perfect, and figuring out how to take charge of her own, soon-to-be-adult life. Mary’s presence brings plenty of unanswered questions, and the family begins to peel back the layers to expose a whole slew of secrets and misunderstandings. UNBECOMING describes the importance of being true to one’s own self vs. the stifling power of conforming to expectations, while also creating a multi-faceted take on family, past, present, and future.

The author creates compelling strands for all three women. But, first and foremost, it's Katie’s story, as she grows and begins to come into her own, allowing the stories of the others to feed into who she is and who she is struggling to become. Heartfelt and wise, UNBECOMING is also accomplished on a much more intimate level, with Downham (also the author of Before I Die) crafting beautiful words into beautiful sentences, into paragraphs and chapters that are a joy to read.


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