Thursday, May 14, 2009

Book review: The piano man by Marcia Preston

The Piano Man - Marcia Preston

When 17-year-old Nathan O’Neal is killed in a tragic car accident, his young mother Claire is left to cope with the loss. As a way of dealing with the trauma of losing her only child, Claire shifts house and creates a shrine to her beloved teenage son. She also encounters strange hallucinations of him, where they are able to talk about what’s happening in their lives, but never anything about the night of the accident.
Three years after Nathan’s death, Claire comes across a forgotten letter tucked away in a photo album. The letter, sent by the wife of a man who received Nathan’s heart, fills Claire with the hope that by seeing the heart recipient, a talented violinist named Mason McKinnon, she will be able to feel closer to Nathan. But when she finds Mason, she discovers that he is playing piano in a seedy bar, having given up his symphony career, and survives on cigarettes, beer and the occasional frozen meal. Claire takes it upon herself to look after the cynical man and change his attitude towards his second chance at life.

What I gained from reading this book:
Claire’s grief in this novel is overwhelming and I think Preston has done very well in portraying some of the different ways in which people deal with loss. Not only does she focus on Claire’s way of recovering, but she also approaches the grieving processes followed by Nathan’s former girlfriend, his usually absent father, his best friend who suffers survivor’s guilt following the crash and the man who feels responsible for the way that Nathan was killed. Preston also provides an insight into how Mason feels regarding Nathan’s death, providing another angle to the story and helping readers to see both the strains of guilt and relief that come from being an organ recipient.

This novel is special, in that it tackles the very real situation that some people find themselves in regarding organ donorship. At the time of Nathan’s death, Claire is distraught and although she is not happy with Nathan’s prior decision to be an organ donor, she allows the doctors to take his heart and pass it on to somebody who needs it. It isn’t until three years later that she finds the letter that reminds her that Nathan’s heart is still out there and she seeks to find it, in order to give Nathan’s death some meaning. Claire’s resulting relationship with Mason is touching and heartfelt and shows that sometimes the biggest tragedies for some people can be the biggest stroke of fortune for others.

Some people may wonder how a seemingly strong character like Claire can seem so fragile and weak at times, especially when she hallucinates and sees her deceased son. The way I see it, this is simply Claire’s way of coping with Nathan’s death, despite how strange it might seem to some people.

Rating: 8 out of 10

Genre: Family/ Relationships

Recommended for: Anybody who is dealing with the loss of a loved one, or is interested in seeing another side to organ donation.

Australians can buy the book by clicking the picture below:

The Piano Man

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