Thirteen-year-old Nico's idyllic family life by Mirror Lake is shattered one summer's day when her sister Margaret drowns. The family is thrown into freefall: Nico's mother becomes dependent on pills, her father seems to be having an affair with his bookshop assistant, and Margaret's boyfriend, Aaron, seems bent on making Nico take his dead girlfriend's place.
Francine Prose's novel takes its time to establish all these confused emotions and their outcomes, and while she is excellent on the terror and profundity of grief, giving it due care and attention, the formal requirements of the novel, for movement and change, are fixed by the inexorability of death and its aftermath.
What can only move forward is Nico's grief but it, too, is stuck. At times, such lack of movement makes this a hard book to read for both emotional and practical reasons, but Prose is being true to the nature of grief and, for that, she deserves our patience and trust. My only complaint is the summing up at the end, and the few paragraphs detailing future achievements: after the slow pace of the rest of the novel, it feels out of place and clunky.