Review Blog

Aug 08 2012

Becoming Kirsty-Lee by Zenda Vecchio

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Ginninderra Press, 2012. ISBN 978 1 74027 735 8.
(Age: Teens) Recommended. Becoming Kirsty-Lee is a poignant novella by Zenda Vecchio, which explores what it's like for the main character to survive the fallout caused by divorce. Thirteen year old 'Kit' comes home from school one summer's day and discovers that her father has left her family, because he has been having an affair with a younger woman who is now pregnant.
As the second child and once her father's favourite, Kit takes this betrayal to heart, especially the fact that he walked out as if he was going off to a normal day of work, but never came home. She decides that 'If you love someone, you give them parts of yourself and that's dangerous. If they go away, they take part of you with them.' On this basis, she withdraws into herself, believing that she is 'the wrong type of girl', not like the beautiful, tall girls with big eyes and whispery voices who all the boys are attracted to. She resents her sister, Rose, and her cousins, Emma and Belinda, who she believes have made themselves into clones of this 'right type', and finds solace only with Ash, the young man whose face was terribly scared in a car accident. In an effort to ignore her feelings of grief and betrayal, she remakes herself from Kit into Kirsty-Lee, discarding the pet nickname her father always called her and all the memories associated with him.
Gradually, she comes to realise, through her conflict with others, that people deal with their grief in different ways: some more quickly, while others struggle for much longer to accept the changes forced upon them by life. It is in these moments of connection - with her mother, with Ash - that she discovers she is not the only person who struggles with letting go and forgiveness, and that life is about learning who you are within yourself, not just in relation to the other people in your life or who have left. In that, she finds a measure of hope to sustain her.
Simply written, in a journalistic style, Vecchio captures all the restraint of Kirsty-Lee's reserved personality and deeply felt hurts. The scenes are evocatively described, with sensitive insights into human nature and the process of grieving the loss of something precious. This book will touch all those who have experienced their own grief and many will find it hard not to shed a tear at this girl's story.
Kate Hall

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