Zoe Maisey is a seventeen-year-old musical prodigy with a genius IQ. Three years ago, she was involved in a tragic incident that left three classmates dead. She served her time, and now her mother, Maria, is resolved to keep that devastating fact tucked far away from their new beginning, hiding the past even from her new husband and demanding Zoe do the same. Tonight Zoe is giving a recital that Maria has been planning for months. It needs to be the performance of her life. But instead, by the end of the evening, Maria is dead. In the aftermath, everyone—police, family, Zoe’s former solicitor, and Zoe herself—tries to piece together what happened. But as Zoe knows all too well, the truth is rarely straightforward, and the closer we are to someone, the less we may see.
Here we are, second review in English after The cursed child. I don’t know if you guys remember but back then I was wondering what if. What if magic existed? I must confess that I was a little nervous before reading this book because I loved the first novel of G. MacMillan (Burnt Paper Sky) and I wondered if the lightning would strike twice in the same spot and if magic would happen once again… and it DID! It freaking DID!
The initial title for this novel was “Butterfly in the dark” and I feel like this image really fits Zoe. She’s a butterfly dancing out of thin air. A small flutter of her wings ultimately caused a typhoon around her world. 3 years before the action occurs, 14-year old Zoe got convicted for murder because of a car accident where she caused the death of three classmates. She has served her time and is now looking for redemption to move on with her new family. Indeed her mother remarried and she has now a stepbrother of her age (Lucas) and a brand new half-sister (Grace). Sunday night after a concert that she gives in a church in front of her family and her aunt Tessa, her mother is found dead. What happened ?
The author depicts with talent the portraits of this damaged family, struggling in silence to display the picture of perfection. Why with talent? Because her characters are smart, real and authentic and last but not least, her secondary characters have backstories of their own which is nice! The writing is cinematographic, focusing on the different protagonists from diverse perspectives (Zoe, Tessa and Sam (Zoe’s former solicitor)). Each one of them is explaining their truth with their own personal baggage and awareness.
Through flashbacks G. MacMillan puts the pieces of the puzzle together and paints a family portrait without concession. She displays a sharp and accurate understanding of human nature. Somehow she makes us ask ourselves: Should we be defined for the rest of our lives by one stupid mistake? Can we give anyone a chance for redemption? Is there such a thing as a second chance?
At the beginning of the story, Zoe seems to be overcautious with her image. This is her second chance and she can’t mess it up. Her mother won’t let her forget that she has to be the perfect girl. See Maria didn’t tell her “new family” about her daughter’s past and lying by omission isn’t really lying right? Zoe’s mother makes it her daily mission not to pop this delicious bubble of illusion. After all this is her second chance too. She is determined to make everything fit perfectly into what she pictures as the perfect life. Doing so she builds fences at the expense of her daughter’s wellbeing so that her world made of pretty lies won’t fall apart. Denial can be a strong shelter to hide into.
But Zoe struggles with her mother’s coldness and denial. She’s lucid and strong about this whole situation yet she’s fragile like a butterfly. Her stillness is screaming « Please mother, listen to me, talk to me, hug me ». It crushed my heart to see the vulnerability that pulses through her veins. Her guilt eats her up but she somehow finds it in her to fight back and give herself a second chance. A second chance. This letmotif appears throughout the book. She has to be the perfect girl, because it’s her second chance. Period.
Piano playing is like an addiction for me. It’s a path I have to walk down, water I have to drink, food I must consume, air I need to breathe. It’s the only thing that can take my head somewhere safe and everybody tells me its going to give me a ‘bright future’
I don’t consider myself a pianist even if I played the piano for a few years but I get what Zoe means, her desperate need for a safe place, an escape from the life she’s stuck into. This need for a passion that would transcend her and make her feel more alive than anything else in the world. Music is her salvation like writing his script was for Lucas.
G.MacMillan brought this cinematographic angle to a whole new level with the parts of Lucas’ script. Zoe’s stepbrother wrote in a script the secret he would never dare to say in a million years. It was so powerful yet so delicate. It reminded me of this quote from Pascal Quignard which says in substance that one can write what he isn’t able to say. One can write even though he cries. But what one can’t do while writing is sing. This was IT. I honestly could relate to this and feel for Lucas. In their own ways, Lucas and Zoe found their path to resilience through music and writing. Art, always and forever. Take your broken heart, make it into art Meryl Streep said once.
I didn’t know what to expect when I opened this book, I wanted to love it for sure but I didn’t want to be disappointed. I wasn’t. I so wasn’t. It’s definitely a must-read. This book is intense, deep and powerful. It has music that still resonates within. Trust me just read it. I mean really. This is as good as it should be!
Nota Bene : To read before a family dinner while listening to « Nocturne » by Chopin or « Bird set free » by Sia.
My grade :
Editeur : PIATKUS
Date parution : 06/09/16
ISBN : 9780349406411
Nb de pages : 341 pages