Ann Hood’s New Novel Plumbs Sibling Guilt and Sorrow

By Ann Hood

Over the course of her lengthy profession, the creator Ann Hood (“The Obituary Writer,” “The Book That Matters Most”) has returned to themes of grief and loss once more and once more, not repetitively however within the sense of mining one vein for its richest tales. She has explored grief in fiction and memoir, in essays and even recipes, however by no means earlier than in her work for youthful readers.

In “Jude Banks, Superhero,” we meet 12-year-old Jude, whose coronary heart has been damaged by the sudden demise of his youthful sister. Irrepressible Katie was courageous and impulsive, theatrical and good. Jude, not fairly a 12 months older, was content material to reside in her shadow, even when individuals regarded proper previous him to say issues about Katie like, “She’s going to take over the world someday, isn’t she?” Jude wasn’t jealous of his sister, he was proud. And then, in a single horrible second, Katie was gone.

Now Jude is racked with secret guilt: For causes that take a while to emerge, he actually believes her demise is his fault.

Back when Katie was alive, Jude would discover issues she’d misplaced and make things better she’d damaged, and grateful Katie would say: “You, my brother, are a hero. … You’re a tremendoushero.” Can he be an actual one? Jude wonders. A caped crusader who saves others although he couldn’t save his sister?

Soon Jude is poised to rescue young children who he thinks would possibly choke on lollipops or drown in swimming swimming pools — efforts, it seems, which might be misdirected. The particular person Jude actually wants to avoid wasting is himself, and he can’t repair his personal guilt by swooping in to avert different individuals’s disasters.

Hood is good at displaying the extraordinary moments of a household’s heartbreak. Even as Jude struggles, he tries to assist his dad and mom. These are probably the most affecting scenes within the guide.

In an effort to rekindle previous happiness, he takes out the Halloween decorations — however now they’re foolish as an alternative of scary. When casseroles maintain coming from involved neighbors, Jude tries to engineer a customized order for his mother.

Any reader who has mourned will admire the way in which Hood captures the rhythm of grief. There is giving in addition to taking, one step ahead and two steps again.

This novel is profoundly unhappy, however there are additionally lighter moments, like Jude’s periods along with his baffling but unusually efficient therapist and his resolution, as a self-convinced assassin, to lawyer up.

He develops a brand new friendship with a grieving lady whose ache matches his; they match collectively like two magnets, although her story takes a darker flip. Jude’s superhero capers are bittersweet and pretty.

Some of Hood’s cultural references are a bit dated. And Jude’s recollections of Katie include little battle; they really feel virtually too good to be true. Do actual siblings say “I love you” to one another in a number of languages? It’s laborious to inform who’s idealizing household life, the creator or the narrator.

But there are a lot of readers who’re navigating guilt and sorrow proper now — for them, this guide is a should. And for these fortunate sufficient to take the journey solely of their imaginations, it is a story of resilience within the face of devastating ache. There’s not a simple ending right here, however there may be loads of hope as Jude begins to see that he can let go of some ache with out letting go of Katie.

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