Dear Vincent by Mandy Hager
This is Mandy Hager’s best novel and she has had some good ones. It is beautifully crafted, extremely well written with characters whose lives burst out the pages and it is about teen suicide.
I hear you gasp! No one wins from suicide. You never know what is round the corner no matter how hard life seems. Sometimes perceptions and reality are polls apart as it is with 17 year old Tara the main character in this novel.
Tara lives with her loveless mother and stroke affected father in a rundown, spartan and cold house. She spoon feeds her father , washes him and puts him to bed while her mother works. Her sister ,Vanessa or Van, who she adored, killed herself 5 years previously when she too was 17 years old. This age is not a good one for this family.
Tara is a brilliant art student but her parents don’t care, or do they? She is smitten by the paintings of Vincent Van Gogh whose works and life are a main character in this novel. A quotation from van Gogh’s letters appears at the start of every chapter.
Tara finds out that her sister killed herself while in Northern Ireland from whence her parents had fled in the middle of the Troubles. But is this the only reason they fled? Tara goes into a rage and a decline in morale and mental health. Help is at hand. She is saved by a legless old man who survived the holocaust and his grandson who are wonderful people.
When Tara causes her father to be hospitalised, she attacks her mother in an argument that will leave you breathless. She subsequently leaves for Ireland to seek her past and discovers truths that no-one is prepared for.
The ending is superb and wonderfully hopeful. I cried my heart out.
Young adult mainly but really anyone who feels their life is worthless and contemplates suicide. Don’t miss it. I will never forget this novel.