Mama's Song by Ben Beaton

Friday, August 7, 2009

Black Dog Books, September 2009, YA, 208 pages paperback

Georgina—a teenager, alone and pregnant—is estranged from her mother and father.

When she seeks refuge in a country town, she discovers her grandmother has passed away, leaving her more alone than ever. It is here, in a small country hospital, that she must come to terms with the enormity of what she faces and the new life she is now responsible for.

This novel was incredibly beautiful - I sat down and started reading, and not once did my attention wander. It was written almost lyrically, alternating between Georgina during the present day at the hospital and her memories. Initially, I was surprised by the fact that this novel is mostly about Georgina's experiences as a new mother, considering the author is a man, but I shortly forgot about that and was swept into the story.

I particularly enjoyed the exchanges between Georgina and the other new mothers at the hospital, Mary and Nasreen. Another thing I liked was that there was no imposing moral in Mama's Song, as I've found in other books about teenage mothers. Instead, the novel reflected on the beauty of human life.

Georgina was a character who matured greatly as the novel progressed, but I felt that I didn't get to know George well enough, and that I barely got to know her family at all. I wish there could have been a bit more back story, a bit more of a reason why George was in the situation she was in. I really wished we could have learnt more about her. It felt a bit cut short.

When I finished reading, I immediately thought of a teenage girl I know, who isn't a strong reader, but who I think would get a lot out of Mama's Song, and because of the length, she wouldn't mind reading. I think this is the type of novel that will speak to people like her.

However, even though the novel is short, it had a great deal of honesty and depth. I believe adults would enjoy this novel as well, because even though the protagonist is a teenage girl, I think the wonderful writing gives it crossover appeal. Overall, I found Mama's Song to be a unique and fascinating novel, that was at times depressing, but also incredibly hopeful.
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