Annie, about to finish high school, is still struggling with the long-term grief and confusion that has changed her family life since her sister, Mog, was killed by a car thief just before her own high school graduation two years ago. Annie wants to talk about Mog, but her mother remains in insistent denial and turns away from any mention of her; her father is protective of her mother and keeps his own long silences; and her brother, eager to get on with life, is willing, but unable to sustain much of the kind of conversation that might help.

Mog’s boyfriend, who was with Mog on the night of the shooting and sustained an injury but survived, offers one source of help in Annie’s process of emerging from grief, but the help becomes confused with romantic attentions that eventually, with the help of a therapist, Mog realizes she needs gently to renounce. Her belated decision to see a therapist comes at the suggestion of a friend’s mother who sees how stuck the family is in their evasions of the grief process. She initiates the visits on her own steam, with the approval of her rather passive but supportive father, and with a rather tense policy of noninterference from her mother.

Eventually, as Annie starts college, she finds herself able to move along toward remembering Mog and speaking about her freely while also reclaiming her own life and ambitions without guilt for leaving her sister "behind." Her father assures her that her mother will "be alright." In the meantime, Annie realizes not everyone has to heal the same way, and she has, with help, found a way that works for her.


The book’s very realistic treatment of the lingering after-effects of a shocking a violent death is tempered by many scenes in which Annie copes with the ordinary rites of passage associated with the transition from high school to college. The intermittent nature of her grief, anger, and bewilderment over her sister’s death is well represented, as are the various coping strategies of family members who, unable to talk about Mog’s death, have to grope toward healing individually.

The novel doesn’t offer an easy solution to personal grief or familial healing, but does provide a thought-provoking story of hard transition. A useful book for discussion with young people who have sustained loss of a family member.


Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Place Published

New York



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