Monday, November 23, 2009

Book Review (YA): An Egg on Three Sticks, by Jackie Moyer Fischer

An Egg on Three Sticks, by Jackie Moyer Fischer

Abby Goodman knows things, has seen things, that no teenager should ever know or see.

Things like her mother swimming naked in the neighbor's swimming pool in the middle of the night.

Or her mother's rages that cause her to destroy presents and people in her path, her suicidal tendencies, or her mother's zombie-like existence that causes her to sleep for days on end.

Mom is like this sheet walking around. Her skin is all white and her face is flat and she sort of floats from room to room.
I'm afraid to lift up the sheet.
Afraid there's nothing under there.
There's something else walking around our house, too.

The thing nobody talks about.
Which is that we are all afraid that Mom is going to try it again.
I think about it all the time.
I come home from school every day and I don't want to open the front door and walk inside.
Some days I make Poppy come home with me, just in case.
So far, Mom has only been lying down.
On her bed.


Abby and her family (including her father and younger sister Lisa) are the victims of her mother's mental illness, in a time when being bipolar and clinically depressed were treated through denial and whispers among neighbors. Eventually, Abby's mother winds up in a psychiatric hospital for a lengthy stay. (An Egg on Three Sticks' setting of the 1970s is clear here; in 2009, such a long stay would never be covered by insurance. It's also telling in terms of the evolution over the past three decades of the pharmacology used to treat mental illness.)

An Egg on Three Sticks deals with much of the same subject matter as Tomato Girl, and with similar writing. Those who liked the latter would probably enjoy reading An Egg on Three Sticks, as I did.

Author Jackie Moyer Fischer captures this era of Vietnam and shag carpeting as a backdrop against Abby's experience of needing to grow up too quickly. In many ways, Abby's very much of the 7th grade narrator at the book's beginning, a tween that frequently peppers her vocabulary with phrases like "weirdamundo," the verbiage found in the coolamundo language she and her best friend Poppy bond over.

By the book's end, Abby is 15 and feeling like she is 40. And the reader closes the book wondering about the effect her childhood will have on her life once Abby does reach her 40s. Does she inherit characteristics of her mother's mental illness? Is she still close with her sister Lisa? What happens to her father, their neighbor's son who is "getting shot - I mean, shot at" over in Vietnam?

Those are the qualities of a good novel, one where the characters capture your heart as you read and after you're finished reading, keep it there for awhile longer.

I couldn't find any other reviews of this, but if I missed yours, let me know in the comments.

No comments: