I think this may need a whole new shelf in Goodreads - "Books that made me cry so hard I couldn't see the words." It's one of those stories that should be listed under "heart wrenching" in the dictionary as an example. The story of Grace trying to figure out life after losing her mother is so poignant and bittersweet, and yes, I know those words are very cliche - but they are cliches for a reason. Every time she begins to feel as if she's fitting in, guilt and doubt swirl up around her and pull her back into her grief. She feels angry at the grandmother she has never known, whom she now lives with in her mother's childhood home. She feels angry at her mother for leaving her by dying. She feels angry at herself for having even the slightest feelings of affection toward her grandmother or belonging in her home, the home her mother had left and never gone back to during Grace's life. More than anything, she wants to find a way to stay in the "Before" time when her mother was still alive, and to avoid anything that grounds her in the "After" where her mother is gone. As we read, we see her struggling to keep out all the well-meaning new people in her life - classmates, teachers, neighbors, and especially her grandmother. We become an audience of cheerleaders, rooting for her to pick up the pieces and make a new life for herself, just the way her mother chose pieces of discarded items and created sculptures. Grace's life could become a beautiful work of art if she will only let it. The characters come to such vibrant life in this story - the grieving and wounded girl who tries to push everyone away; the girl who tries to befriend her, but can only get a little way inside before Grace shuts her out; the prickly grandmother who drove her daughter away and isn't sure how to reconnect to her granddaughter; they all seem so very real. It is a very special kind of writing that takes us into the story and wraps us in it until we believe it is real and we feel a bit confused when we look up from the page and we're not in Auburn Valley, but we're sitting in our own living room instead. I highly recommend it, but please have lots of tissues handy when you read it. Don't say I didn't warn you.
I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley. It was published on May 1, 2014.For more about the author, check out her website. The author explains her inspiration for the story here at the Nerdy Book Club. And she explains how she became a writer here at Unleashing Readers.