I can honestly say that I’ve finally come across a Marchetta novel that I truly love. Pairing Thomas Mackee’s beautiful story with today’s heartrending episode of General Hospital
—watching Jason Morgan and Lucky Spencer torn to pieces over the loss of baby Jake…Oh! No words can truly express my feelings at this moment. In both cases, you have fine storytelling paired with wonderfully emotive characterization. It’s not always what’s actually stated that really gets you…it’s the little attentions to detail, those certain actions—posture, gestures and movements, a certain look in the eye, facial expressions and the tears that somehow end up expressing so much more.
Unlike the other novels that I’ve read by Marchetta—Saving Francesca, On the Jellicoe Road and Finnikin of the Rock—The Piper’s Son
feels the most personal. Nothing is hidden here; all of the Mackee family wounds are exposed. The descriptions are emotionally raw and uncensored. It’s very real and in the moment. And what I love—no matter how painfully flawed the subject or the emotions felt, nothing’s held back. Throughout the book, everything’s brought to light as a means to seek resolution—it’s not just saved for the end. The progression is wonderful.
Given that this book covers all the generations of the Finch-Mackee household, it can seem like one of those old Troy Donahue soap operas from the 50s and 60s that are occasionally aired on TCM—or even better yet The Thorn Birds
. But I wouldn’t say that the connection is necessarily a detraction. I like how the story unfolds, it’s like Marchetta’s weaving together a tapestry, one that’s intricately detailed. At first, it may not seem like much, but upon completion, it becomes a sight beautiful to behold—something truly special.
I have a weakness for watching and reading about flawed and troubled characters. Tom Mackee’s one of those James Dean-Rebel without a Cause
types. In that film when James Dean yells at his parents, “You’re tearing me apart”— that sentiment can certainly apply to Tom’s immediate reactions to the various losses his family suffers. Tom’s choices are quite common: making a bad situation worse by internalizing the pain, damping it down as a means to forget, even though this always eventually leads to a breaking point—the point on which the novel begins. It’s one of those pastoral, on the road, books. Even though Tom and his family are not necessarily on a physical journey, it’s a psychological one that tries to bring hope.
Side note: One element I missed was the presence of Jimmy Hailler. Even though he’s mentioned in passing, I wish there was more about him. Despite that, this is a book I’d highly recommend.