On an unseasonably warm Sunday in May, 13-year-old Nico watched her older sister slip from their rowboat, in the lake behind their home, into the water for a swim...and never come back up. Seventeen-year-old Margaret was beautiful, prosaic, mystical, and musically gifted, and her drowning forces Nico to reconstruct her world without her lifelong compass.
Goldengrove, authored by Francine Prose, focuses on the summer after Margaret's death, and what the family must endure to survive their grief. Nico's mother turns to the piano and prescription medication; her father retreats to the back of his bookstore to finish his book.
Nico is on her own, and her list of what she can't do without Margaret (among them, listening to music, watching old movies, going near the lake) grows until it narrows her world to a sliver. When Margaret's boyfriend, Aaron, proposes that the two lean on each other, it seems an ideal way for Nico to re-enter life by facing everything on her list head on.
As the relationship develops, though, the lines inevitably begin to blur:
"I had forgotten what...was me and what was Margaret. It had been so much easier when she was alive and I could compare us, side by side, and measure the distance between us."
This was a heart-breaking and compelling read, painfully looking at young grief and the maturity forced on a teenager in the wake of an accident. You really pull for this girl, rooting for her to make good decisions, come back to herself, and emerge whole on the other side.