Author: Sandra Novack
Published: February 17, 2009
Page Count: 288
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
My Rating: 4/5
The summer of 1978, ten-year-old Vicki Anderson rides her bike to the local park and goes missing. Her tight-knit blue-collar Pennsylvania neighborhood, where children roam the streets at night playing lightning tag, aboveground pools sparkle in backyards, and flowers scent the air, will never be the same.
Down the street from Vicki’s house, another family is in crisis. Troubled by her past, headstrong Natalia Kisch has abandoned her husband and two daughters for another man. Frank Kisch, grappling with his anger, is left to raise their girls alone, oblivious to his daughters’ struggles with both disappearances: Eva, seventeen, plunges into an affair with her married high school teacher, and nine-year-old Sissy escapes to a world of imagination and storytelling that becomes so magical it pierces the reality of the everyday.
When Natalia unexpectedly returns, the struggles and tensions that have built over the summer erupt into a series of events that change the Kisches irrevocably—forcing them to piece together their complicated pasts and commitments to each other.
In this haunting, atmospheric debut, Sandra Novack examines loss, loyalty, and a family in crisis. Lyrical and elegiac, Precious illuminates our attempts to make sense of the volatility that surrounds and consumes us, and explores our ability, even during the most trying times, to remember and hold on to those we love most.
First of all, I have to say that Precious was not exactly the novel I had assumed it would be. Based on the book description, I thought that the main focus of the book would be Vicki Anderson’s disappearance with the other stories sort of in the background. What I got was a story of an extremely troubled family, told from the perspectives of all four family members, with Vicki’s disappearance an important (but not terribly prominent) subplot. THIS is exactly why one should never make assumptions about books – I loved where the novel took these characters, yet as it was unexpected it took me a little bit to get into the story. Had I been open to whatever the book had to offer without any preconceived notions, I would’ve gotten into the novel much faster than I did.
Anyway, why don’t I talk about what I liked about Precious? The first thing that struck me about this novel is just how well-paced it was. This might sound weird, but the first few chapters are kind of slow and to be honest, that worried me at first. But once I understood that Novack paced things exactly right to help the reader really get involved with these characters and to fall into step with them, I loved the way she did things. When the real “action” started to ocur, I was fully immersed in these characters lives’ and I felt like I was going through this stuff with them. I also liked the format of telling the story from multiple perspectives, yet keeping everything in third-person narrative. This gave me great insight into each characters’ thoughts and feelings yet still kept me at bay for when I either didn’t agree with their decisions or felt awful for something that happened to them. It also helped to see multiple perspectives of the same situation. For example, hearing about Natalia and her disappearance from her daughters was a totally different experience than hearing about it from Natalia herself. And I’m thrilled that Novack chose to give the reader both experiences.
I’m not going to lie, Precious is an emotionally heavy read. The characters are all extremely flawed (well, perhaps Sissy is the exception to that at the young age of ten she’s pretty “normal”), and I couldn’t help feeling empathy for them anyway. Even Natalia. Even Eva. (Not Peter, though, not really.) I was definitely wrestling with my emotions as I closed the last page and put the book down for good. It left me with a deep feeling of sadness, but also of hopefulness too. I don’t know, it’s somewhat hard to explain. Just read the book – then you’ll know what I mean.
Overall, this novel is pretty great. Novack has crafted an intricate story with interesting, complex characters that will definitely make you think. I’m very interested to see what Novack comes up with next!
I read Precious as part of a TLC book tour. Here’s the list for the rest of the tour:
Monday, May 4th: Fizzy Thoughts
Wednesday, May 6th: Book, Line, and Sinker
Thursday, May 7th: Redlady’s Reading Room
Monday, May 11th: Musings of a Bookish Kitty
Wednesday, May 13th: Bookworm with a View
Thursday, May 14th: Pop Culture Junkie
Monday, May 18th: Literate Housewife
Friday, May 22nd: Booking Mama
Tuesday, May 26th: Book Addiction
Friday, May 29th: Diary of an Eccentric