by Esther Ehrlich
Overall: 5 out of 5 stars
Chirp (Naomi Orenstein) is an 11-year-old girl living on Cape Cod in the 1970s with her parents and sister. Chirp’s world is turned upside down when her mother is diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and withdraws from the family into her depression. Chirp’s mother is sent to McLean Hospital, a mental institution outside Boston. After what seems like forever, she comes home, only to become even more depressed and (spoiler alert!) eventually commit suicide.
I was not expecting such a sad ending for Chirp’s mother, so this book socked me in the gut. But that aside, it is a beautiful and real look at physical and mental illness and ways people cope. Chirp’s relationship with her snotty teen sister rings achingly true, and their psychiatrist father adds a new dimension to their relationships. Chirp is also a birdwatcher and befriends a neighbor boy whose home life is at least as challenging as hers is, and they run away to Boston together. I especially liked their friendship, and also the way that she doesn’t shy away from describing the delicacy with which people treated Chirp and her family when they finally resume their lives after the funeral. I also enjoyed the historical aspect of using pay phones and not being able to reach someone.