Seventeen year old Mia is the daughter of loving but slightly eccentric parents. Her dad played music in a moderately successful band up until Mia was ten. Then he quit, surprising everyone and went back to college and got a teaching degree. Her parents met and married young, had Mia young. They are music freaks and always encouraged Mia to be creative, especially with music. Given their preferences, they expected Mia to pick up a guitar. But Mia was drawn to the cello. Her parents were puzzled, but after they saw that it was no passing fad, they encouraged and supported her every step of the way. Now Mia is trying out for Juilliard, has a fantastic (also musical) boyfriend, good friends. She’s happy. Until one day.
A rare snow day is declared in her town in Oregon and her whole family decides to make the most of it, spending the day together visiting some family, some friends. They’re driving along, music is playing and then all of a sudden, everything changes. Mia is standing on the road, staring down at the remnants of the devastating crash. She sees the lifeless bodies of her parents, then she sees another one, and she thinks it’s her younger brother Teddy. As she gets closer, she notices the bracelet. It isn’t Teddy with the blood seeping out, staining the chest. It’s Mia.
She watches everything. She watches the paramedics arrive, she watches them take her to the small, nearby hospital and then deem her too critical and she is airlifted to a bigger one. She watches the surgeries she goes through to try and save her life, she watches the doctors and nurses, the way they treat her. She watches her grandparents arrive at the hospital and sit in the waiting room. She looks for Adam, her boyfriend, who was supposed to be playing a gig in Seattle tonight. She watches her best friend Kim.
Mia doesn’t know what to do. She wanders around the hospital, watching everyone watching her and praying for her and weighing up her options: what would she be coming back to? Her family is gone, plucked away from her in one moment of screeching tyres and crushing metal. She is all that is left now. But she’s not a person that gives up. She has a choice to make in that quiet hospital…. does she stay? Or does she let go?
Woah. This book was intense. I’m not ashamed to admit that I deliberately waited until my fiance went away for a work-related trip before I read this. He thinks it’s sort of amusing that I cry all the time in books and I knew this one was going to be a tear jerker! So I waited until I was alone – and then I dived in.
The way that this story is told is incredible. We get to know Mia a little bit at at time as she wanders the halls of the hospital, taking us back through her life with her memories. Meeting and getting together with Adam, meeting her best friend Kim, the birth of her little brother who is 10 years younger than she is, how her parents met and married, their love of music, Mia’s love of music. Their tightknit family unit is adorable and her life is a rich one, full of things that she loves and people that love her. It’s not cheesy, it’s just a clearcut view of a girl who was happy with herself finally, with her choices. She takes us through some not-so-good times too, but they’re all nothing compared to the moments she is living through now.
This book is deceptively simple in the way that’s it written. It’s straight forward, matter of fact without overly flowery and emotional prose but it packs a real punch. It’s beautiful to read and impossible to put down. Some scenes are truly and utterly heartbreaking and I had to stop reading and find tissues during the scene in which her grandfather speaks to her about it being okay for her to let go, if that is what she needs to do. Mia’s confusion and loss seeps through the pages into you until you feel like you are her. You feel like you are wandering the hospital, watching her family, her friend and her boyfriend grieve and pray for her and realising that her whole immediate family has been wiped out in one swoop. It’s a horrific thing for any young girl to face alone and as she goes through her mind processes you can understand why she just may want to let go.
A truly fantastic read. I can’t wait for the sequel, Where She Went, which is due out in April 2011.
Book #119 for 2010