The Pie Baker

Fresh from the Oven

Book Review: Life on the Refrigerator Door

I’ve decided that my blog should contain reviews of books that I read. I am a voracious reader and become practically apoplectic if I have no books waiting patiently by my bed for me at night. I do have certain standards when it comes to reading for pleasure, so I will relate to you now that you will not see reviews of science-fiction/fantasy, westerns, graphic novels, bodice ripper romances or anything that relates to war. Just not my bag. I prefer to read fiction that explores how characters grow and how the choices they make affect their growth. But I also like murder mysteries, legal and medical dramas and “relationship fiction.” I seldom read non-fiction for pleasure, but when I do it’s for a specific reason. If it comes up, I will advise.

So, the first book up for review is called Life on the Refrigerator Door by Alice Kuipers. This is a debut novel from the British born author and it chronicles several months in the lives of a single mother and her teen-aged daughter. The story is told entirely in a series of notes the women leave for each other and span topics such as grocery lists, school anxiety, boyfriends and illness. When the mother faces a health crisis, the notes turn intimate and become a reflection of their relationship.

Claire is 15 and apparently a high achiever at school. She is focused on herself, her friends and her school work (as is any teen-ager). Her mother works many shifts at the local hospital as a nurse, so their varying schedules practically demand that they communicate through notes left on the refrigerator door. In almost every note, one of them states that they need to talk in person, but for whatever reason, neither is very available to the other. When the mother is diagnosed with breast cancer, her daughter’s inquiries are at first waved away, but eventually they both understand that it’s the only safe way to communicate while each is filled with rage, sorrow and pain.

This was a very quick read for me. In fact, I finished it in about 30 minutes. It was short, but quite powerful. One thing I missed: actual handwriting. I wanted to see images of notes complete with doodles, grammatical and spelling errors. I think it would have lent a more personal air to the communications rather than the clinical feeling portrayed by just page after page of the same font.
The story, though, was a universal one: love conquers all. As the notes progressed, the reader became privy to the inner workings of the mother-daughter relationship and revealed that even through anger and sadness, love still exists.

The book was technically sound and at times was a bit sappy, but the sudden loss of the mother to cancer felt honest and raw, filled with emotion from the daughter that was somewhat lacking in previous notes. As she writes to her dead mother, Claire shares her memories of their time together during her mother’s illness and gives updates regarding her social status and school work. It’s equally healing for the character and the reader.

If you’re looking for a book that is simple, humorous and emotional, then this is a good choice. However, don’t expect much character development, back story, descriptive narratives or plot. The best thing about the book is that it can cross generations and expose how mothers and daughters communicate – without or without a notepad.

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November 5, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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