Pieces of sky by Trinity Doyle

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Allen & Unwin, 2015. ISBN 9781760112488
(Age: 13+) Recommended. Suicide, Family, Death, Relationships, Swimming. Going back to the pool for swimming training recalls Cam's death for Lucy, his sister, and through her narrative, we feel her hesitation as she attempts to dive into the water below. She thinks of how her brother may have felt as the water closed over his head and went down into his lungs, gasping for breath, and she baulks. Her resolve vanishes and she goes on to school, tossing aside the help offered by friends and acquaintances alike, wrapped up in her own grief.
Doyle captures a family alienated from each other with heart aching accuracy. Mum doesn't leave her room, her toast and cup of tea still on a tray outside her door, Dad goes to work but is hardly aware, her aunt, Deb has arrived to help, but often just gets in the way, offering platitudes which Lucy pushes aside. She is full of sincerity but it is hardly what Lucy needs.
So Lucy floats, going to the dune party where her brother Cam used to go with his mates, but getting so drunk she needs to be taken home. Enter Evan, new in town, cousin of Lucy's old primary school bestie, and one who seems to be there when she needs a friend.
The angst that persists within a family after a death, particularly when there is a possibility of suicide, is powerfully written in this story. Each member of the family is in drift mode, grieving in their own way, cut off from each other, surrounded by people with good intentions, but who just don't understand the impact of their loss. As Lucy's relationship with Evan develops she is at a loss how to tell him, behaving oddly until he eventually asks Steffi and so can understand. But he has secrets of his own and the mystery of their backgrounds, of what happened to Cam, of why his best friend disappeared after the funeral are tantalising in keeping the reader hooked.
Although the ending may disappoint some, the writing of the family's months in limbo is most realsitic and will make some readers think more about death and its aftermath.
Woven around the impact of Cam's death, the story of Lucy finding some reason in the swirl of her former swimming life makes this a powerful debut novel.
Fran Knight