Joann Swanson Cranky Owl Books via Netgalley Published 14th July 2014 Thank you to Cranky Owl Books and Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for an honest review. This did not influence my review in any way.
I’m crying on the train again and this time its because of a book I’ve never heard of by an author who hasn’t written anything else yet, from a publisher I didn’t even know existed. What I do know is that I can feel this book right there in my chest and today, as soon as I access the Uni Wireless I will be tracking down this book in paperback and paying the ridiculous shipping costs to Australia.
Why, you ask? What has this book done for me that others haven’t lately? I wish I had an eloquent thought on that subject but I’m still working through them. Lily Berkenshire is 15 and just this once she doesn’t want to answer the phone when her alcoholic father calls. One moment she’s in her room in her and her mother’s dog food house, listening to her knock off iPod, and the next a shot rings out. Her mother is lying dead on the living room floor and now Lily’s dad is pointing the gun at her and it’s only the lack of bullets that leaves Lily still alive. He promises he’ll come back for her and disappears.
Lily is described as tin, because after her father kills her mother she feels hollow inside, like there’s no room for anything. She goes off into her own head for minutes, hours at a time and there’s the bees and she’s not sure if she’s actually seeing her father or imagining it. Despite living with a loving aunt and talking to an understanding (therapist, psychologist?), Lily doesn’t tell of these encounters for fear of being sent away. She finds tethers and small focuses in her world to keep her present, such as the tiny kitten she rescues from a dumpster and Stephen King’s The Stand. I thought Lily was a beautifully crafted character and it pained me to see her struggling her way through this new life, under the weight of things nobody should have to feel.
Tin Lily also delves into the history of Lily’s father as she, in this amazing way, tries to understand what made him turn from her loving dad into Hank, two separate identities to her. The aunt she stays with, Hank’s sister, had the same upbringing as Hank but ultimately they chose different paths and different ways to cope with an emotionally and physically abusive father. This ideal was handled well and addressed how our childhood influences our adult lives, but there is always a choice. Margie recognised her problems, saw a therapist, worked through her issues and came out the other side happy and well adjusted, while Hank turned to alcohol and rage. I think people are too quick to blame outside influences, such as childhood trauma, but Tin Lily highlights the factor of choice. There is always a choice.
Tin Lily was such a beautiful novel – it was heartbreaking and tragic, but also left me with a feeling of hope. That’s good. I like hope. The only thing I would have liked to see is Lily make some friends as well as or as opposed to a boyfriend type character, though I did like Nick and thought their romance was sweet and realistic. I liked that he became a tether for Lily but also that there were other important tethers in her life too.
I can’t wait to have a copy of this for my bookshelf.