Randi Hacker

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Life As I Knew It

Hacker, Randi

Last Updated: May-25-2007
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults


Sixteen-year-old Angelina Rossini tells the story of the year her father died. A lively, opinionated, attractive sixty-nine-year-old Italian happily married to a forty-two-year-old English woman, he has hardly been an inconspicuous presence in the small town of Blodgett, Vermont with a population of 854. Angelina, the only child of this second marriage, loves her father dearly, though she rolls her eyes at his eccentricities, and knows herself to be fortunate in both parents, though they're older, and her mother somewhat less expressive, than she would choose. Her best friend, Jax, belongs to a very different family, large, blue-collar, partly French Canadian. Though she and Jax have been friends since kindergarten, and though she has known for some time that he is gay, her love for him sometimes spills over into desire. They talk about this, as they do about everything else, though this subject is a little tenderer than most. When a girl who has been aggressive and unfriendly suddenly reveals her own same-sex desires, Angelina is able to handle her awkward revelation with compassion.

When Angelina's father has a stroke, all the rhythms of family life are disrupted. Her half sister, whom she's never liked much, comes for an extended visit. Her mother is preoccupied, first at the hospital, then with home care. And she herself has to learn aspects of caregiving for a partly paralyzed father who has lost his speech. The process is, of course, emotionally complex, sometimes comical, often heartbreaking. But when she speaks at his funeral, after a heart attack takes his life, it is with a widened appreciation of the kind of man he was, and of what value his life had even in the months he was severely incapacitated. After his death, she explores, in a few final chapters, the ambiguities of grief, and the process of forging a new relationship with her mother, who has lost her own best friend and companion.

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