Book Review: Hyacinth Girls

Some books entertain. Some books educate. Some books peel off emotional scabs and bring to the fore repressed memories and fresh tears. Lauren Frankel’s Hyacinth Girls, for me, is more of the last.

Rebecca is raising Callie– the daughter of her dead best friend. When she receives a call from Callie’s school that Callie has been bullying another girl, Rebecca refuses to believe it, as she knows Callie to be a gentle, sensitive girl.She does what any parent/guardian would do in supporting Callie, and when other students come out saying that Callie is not at fault she is satisfied. But a call from the mother of the bullied girl and notes left on the grave of Callie’s mother convince her that this is something that is far from over. Meanwhile, Callie starts to raise questions about the past–about her dead parents and a friend of theirs who committed suicide, forcing Rebecca to rexamine her friendship with Callie’s mother.

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The rise of social media has made it easier for people to be publicly shamed. Everything on the internet lives forever and is so widespread that neither time nor distance make it possible to ever escape it. And as Callie reflects at the end of the book it’s not just teens who do it –all of us have at some point of time been the shamer and the shamed. We are quick to pass judgement, without empathy for the person at the receiving end. Hyacinth Girls portrays the pain of the bully and the bullied sensitively and beautifully.

But this is not just another book about bullying. It also touches upon the role of friendships–especially female friendships. It juxtaposes Rebecca’s friendship with Callie’s mother Joyce, and Lara (Callie’s father’s wife) with Callie’s own friendships with Dallas and Ella on one hand and with Robyn on the other. It raises uncomforatble questions about how far and how deep there friendships can go, and what betrayals it can endure. In the process it creates portraits of relationships that the reader can connect with.

Another important theme in the book is parenting or the lack thereof. A question raised at the beginning of the book is “Do you know your children?” Can we ever know what our child thinks or does, and more importantly can we ever know the things they hide from us? In an attempt to know our children, is it okay to violate their privacy?

I personally found the book a bit too short. I wish a bit more time had been devoted to exploring the characters. As of now we have sketches of the characters –and while they are brilliant sketches, one desires to know them and their motivations better. This is not to say that one cannot connect or identify with them. On the contrary, one really does feel their pain and despair. One just wants to feel more of it.

Hyacinth Girls is a sensitive, well thought out and beautifully executed book. It is a book that we need to read.

FTC disclaimer : I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Author Bio : http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/authors/221683/lauren-frankel/

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