Kimberly McCreight’s debut novel, Reconstructing Amelia, is a very powerful book that is a must read. The story explores many of today’s difficult societal issues: the complicated world of parenting, how children are bullied and the effects on their emotional stability, the role social media and technology plays in bullying, and how a high school student’s sexuality becomes a defining moment in her life. The author deals with all of these subjects flawlessly.
From the very first page the reader will be drawn into a heart breaking tale of how a single mother, Kate Baron, must come to grips with the supposed suicide of her high achieving and almost perfect fifteen year old daughter Amelia. After receiving a text saying her daughter did not jump, Kate with the help of a NYPD detective starts to question the details behind Amelia’s death. The nagging question, was it suicide, an accident, or murder? According to the author, “the core of the book is Kate’s relationship with Amelia, and how Amelia is trying to understand events around her as well as her identity. After the characters were created, bullying became a theme of the book. I did not start from the premise of bullying, but started from the issue of motherhood. How it is impossible to know all the secrets of our children. I am hoping readers will understand the point I am making about parenting, how difficult it has become.”
What makes this novel especially powerful is how the author alternates chapters between Kate and Amelia’s thoughts and actions, and a time line between the present and approximately one month earlier. The story is told from Kate’s point of view, flashbacks coming directly from Amelia, and through electronic media. McCreight told blackfive.net, “I enjoy writing alternate perspectives. I am fascinated with situations that have multiple outlooks. To have these situations as a reflection of reality, trying to find where the truth lies.”
The characters are very well developed and realistic. The reader becomes so intertwined with them that there is the wish that events would have turned out differently. Kim noted, “All the characters are related to me. For example I made Kate a lawyer because as a former lawyer I know the environment. I included quotes from Virginia Wolf because I think she is awesome, and she had parallels with Amelia, including the fact that she had killed herself, along with being someone who moved against the tide.”
The author was also able to reconstruct some of Amelia’s personality through electronic media: the use of text messages, Facebook postings, and a mean spirited school gossip blog. The reason for this, “Technology creates another bullying avenue, making it easier to harass and harder to get away from. It complicates everything, especially since it has become such a large part of our life, of our children’s lives. It seems at times like it invades our whole life.”
Blackfive.net was given a heads up about her next book. It will be another mystery with a strong emotional center. One of the characters from this book will possibly be included although the author is tight lipped about which one.
Reconstructing Amelia is a fast-paced and informative book. It is a story that will leave the reader with unanswered questions, but that is part of the power of the plot. This novel has compelling characters that deal with very gripping issues. There are some books that make a lasting impression and this is definitely one.