Summary: Mirabelle is nearly fifteen and living with her mother since her father left. Dealing with her mother’s social anxiety and paranoia on her own, Mira (as she prefers to be called) is isolated and lonely until she makes a friend in her art class at school. Mira is used to being letdown by the people she loves, and her quest for the security she missed out in her father/daughter relationship leads her to make some poor choices. When tragedy strikes, her fragile hold on her life is greatly shaken. Fortunately, Mira now has people in her life who won’t let her down and are willing to help her put her pieces back together.
Number of Pages: 139
Age Range: 15-17
Review: This is my second reading Pieces of Me by Charlotte Gingras and while I did enjoy it the first time, I gleaned more from it the second time. Because this time I was able to put the incident with the art teacher in perspective.
Mira is a lonely girl dealing with her mother’s twisted view of the world all by herself. With minimal support from her father and no friendships, when she does make a friend Christine is like a light shining in the darkness. But because Mira has lived so long in the dark, the darkness creeps in on her friendship through a misunderstanding that Mira is not willing to let go because it proves what she has come to expect through previous experience, that people are unreliable.
Gingras’ book is a work of beauty. It reminded me of My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok with its exquisite descriptions of Mira’s drawings and other works of art. Her apt use of imagery and metaphor with the tree that seemed to be dead and the bird that pulled out its own feathers makes the read more like poetry instead of prose.
But mostly I just loved reading about Mira, the girl who looks. She catches so many things that others don’t see because of her life experiences, and while at times she is at a disadvantage because she is so vulnerable, she has the good fortune of being surrounded by those who won’t take advantage of it: Christine, the Birdman and Paule.
If you’ve read the book you might think it’s odd that I included the Birdman in that list. After a lot of thought though, I realised he does belong there. As Mira’s teacher he never should have had her over to his house, and he definitely never should have let things go as far as they did, but when he stopped himself and then encouraged Mira to see a counsellor, I saw that he knew what he was doing and was willing to step up and take responsibility for his actions. He knew he was wrong, and he did his best to support Mira by passing her on to a trusted colleague once his integrity had been compromised.
But the best part of the book is Mira’s relationship with Paule. Paule listens to her, loves her unconditionally, and helps her develop the tools she needs to get along in life that she didn’t learn from her parents. Their bond as therapist and patient is special, because they both see things others don’t.
Pieces of Me is about a caged bird who finally gets to fly, and I loved every sentence of it.
“Do you know what a mirabel is?
A little round yellow plum. Used in
brandy and jams.
At birth my mother says I was all
round with soft blond down on my
head. The minute she laid eyes on me,
she knew she’d call me Mirabelle.
My mother looks hungry just telling the story.” – Mirabelle’s introduction from Pieces of Me by Charlotte Gingras
“Anytime I see a damaged tree, it makes me shudder. Cowards make me furious. The ones who don’t watch where they’re going, the ones who injure trees then leave them to suffer and die. The ones who run away.” – Mira from Pieces of Me by Charlotte Gingras, page 16
“I feel like eating a whole bag of nachos. I feel like hitchhiking north to the end of the road. I feel like cutting off my eyelashes. Some days I can feel my chest ready to explode in all directions. It hurts. Nothing explodes. Then I don’t feel anything. I just want to lie across my bed and wait for the moment to pass.” – Mira from Pieces of Me by Charlotte Gingras, page 24
“On my way down to the tunnel, I tell myself having a friend isn’t as simple as I thought, sometimes you feel all mixed up inside. Sometimes you feel jealous.” – Mira from Pieces of Me by Charlotte Gingras, pages 47-48
“As Beatrice climbs up his arm to his shoulder, I tell myself I can understand a budgie suffering from too much loneliness. I was just like her before Catherine became my friend. Every dark thought born out of my loneliness made me pull out another feather.” – Mira from Pieces of Me by Charlotte Gingras, pages 80-81
“I’ll never draw as well as him. So much beauty, the subtle colors, the precise details. I’ll never be able to. Sometimes, the feeling that I’ll never be able to do it is overpowering. Not just draw. Grow up. Leave.” – Mira from Pieces of Me by Charlotte Gingras, page 85
“‘Why should I go?’ I clench my fists so as not to fall into pieces at his feet.
‘Because I’m worried about you. But more than anything, because she helps wounded souls heal … and right now, you’re bleeding all over the place.” – conversation between Mira and the Birdman about her seeing a therapist from Pieces of Me by Charlotte Gingras, page 109
“Just then, without the slightest warning, my eyes start tearing up. Me, who never cries in front of other people. Never, ever, I swear.
I drop into the blue armchair across from hers, my hands over my face to hide the flood of tears and also because I’m so tired. I can feel her blind gaze on me, and maybe that, too, makes me cry. As though it could see inside me.” – Mira from Pieces of Me by Charlotte Gingras, page 112
“I run down the hall, grab my boots. My mother’s voice all sleepy, ‘Is that you, Mirabelle mine?’ I leave. There’s no lock on the door, there’s a lock in my head. My mother invented it, I believed her.” – Mira from Pieces of Me by Charlotte Gingras, page 114
“A lucky thing that Paule is here twice a week ready to listen to my crazy stories. Today I’m telling her how I live in a hole in the ground. My mother right next to me. Above us, in the light, is where other humans live. Paule holds out her hand, and I climb with her for a few minutes into the world of light with the others. ‘There is a life for you, too, outside,’ Paule interrupts. ‘A life not spent living with your mother and her fears … Where you can take flight …’
‘But not always, just a little every once in a while. When I go back to the house, I go back to the underground world. When I go outside, I take part of the underground world with me. That’s why I’m sadder than the others, why I dress in black and why sometimes I’m not brave enough.’
‘There’s a life for you outside. Your life belongs to you …'” – conversation between Mira and Paule from Pieces of Me by Charlotte Gingras, page 121
“Paule thinks I made a choice that day at Lac Perdu, to trust human beings, even though they’d hurt me, even though they’d often seemed cruel to me, even though the wounds sometimes hurt so much that I felt like leaving forever. ‘To me, you’re like a small wild animal that’s been wounded and has to be touched very gently and only when it’s ready …’
Hearing her words, I burst into sobs because of the underground world I live in, without light, without warmth, and it’s too hard and it’s been too long.” – from Pieces of Me by Charlotte Gingras, page 122