Booklist (Starred Review):
“Rabb leavens impossible heartbreak with surprising humor, delivered with a comedian’s timing and dark absurdity. Rabb is an exceptionally gifted writer... Readers will cherish this powerful debut.”
School Library Journal (Starred Review):
“Black humor, pitch-perfect detail, and compelling characters make this a terrific read, despite the pain that permeates every superbly written page. As Mia struggles to make sense of her mother's death and her father's illness, she also sees humor in everyday situations, and her irreverent commentary brings the story to life.”
The Bulletin (Starred Review):
“This is undeniably a book of anguish, it's also one of raw strength and casual, clever humor in random and surprising places, making it a compelling as well as tearful read.”
Kliatt (Starred Review):
“The characters are fully formed and when the last page turns, four new and fascinating people have been born into the reader's consciousness.”
“Everybody, regardless of age, should read this novel - witty, warm, and gorgeous in its fearlessness"
From the book jacket:
"If she dies, I'll die" are the words fifteen-year-old Mia Pearlman writes in her journal the night her mother is diagnosed with cancer. Twelve days later, Mia's mother is dead, and Mia, her older sister, and their father must find a way to live on in the face of sudden, unbearable loss.
For Mia, this means getting through a funeral led by a rabbi who should be in show business; dealing with a social worker who recommends shop therapy; sharing "healthy heart" meals with her father, who seems to be seeing her for the first time; trying to relate to her sister, who knows more about logarithms than makeup application; and developing a crush on Cancer Guy who is actually kind of cute. But mostly, it means carrying the image of her mother with her everywhere, because some kinds of love never die. Still, even in grief there is the chance for new beginnings.
Poignant, funny, and ultimately hopeful, Cures for Heartbreak is Margo Rabb's unforgettable novel about love, loss, and a family's resilience.
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Read an excerpt from Cures for Heartbreak here.
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My editors suggested that I write an afterword
explaining the personal side of the novel. The entire
afterword is printed in the book, but here is a shorter,
adapted version of it.
Cures for Heartbreak is a very personal story for me: the fifteen-year-old narrator, Mia Pearlman, loses her mother to melanoma days after the diagnosis, just as I did. It seems that many writers are drawn to personal material for their first books, and when I started writing fiction, the material that I couldn't keep away from was about my mother's death. I felt that enough years had passed since she'd died to give me some perspective on her death, for it to become digested enough to write about. The process of re-visiting the past, altering it and shaping it into fiction helped make sense of things for me; it helped take something painful and incomprehensible and turn it into something else: a story. Writing a story can be magical-I see things on the page that I never knew I'd felt or believed or could have imagined before.
A couple years after I started the book, I finished the first draft. I was certain it was almost done. Then, on an August afternoon, my father died of a heart attack. He was very much like the father in the book, and we'd become extremely close in the years after my mother died.
Despite having spent ages thinking and writing about grief, despite believing I'd shone a light in every corner of the experience of losing a parent, I was devastated by his death. Losing him only seemed to compound the grief I still felt for my mother. I felt a sense of dislocation so severe I sometimes felt seasick, as if I'd stepped onto a ship's deck in a storm and couldn't find the door back inside. I could no longer work on my book. What was the point of writing about grief anymore? What was there to say about loss except that it sucked, that I was depressed and miserable and missed my father and mother and wanted them back? Even my title seemed to mock me: Cures for Heartbreak. I put the draft aside.
I dealt with the particularly bad, lonely, griefy days after both of my parents' deaths by spending countless hours curled up in bed, reading. Within two weeks after my mother died I'd checked out every library book I could find which featured a dead parent. The majority of these books were from the psychology, religion, and self-help sections, but the ones I loved were fiction. I devoured everything from Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre to Judy Blume's Tiger Eyes to L. M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables and Emily of New Moon. After my father died, all I wanted to read were short stories by Alice Munro. The various narrators in Friend of My Youth, The Moons of Jupiter, and The Progress of Love dealt with loss and love and grief with a complexity I'd never seen before. I read those stories again and again until the covers warped.
All these books didn't make me feel better or comfort me so much as they helped me get through, gave me a sense of companionship, and an understanding of who this new motherless fatherless person was.
Years passed. I wrote other stories and books. Eventually, I picked up the manuscript of Cures again, and knew I was finally ready to finish it. I revised it heavily, threw out over a hundred pages, and wrote a hundred new ones. At long last, it was finished for real.
It's been sixteen years now since my mother died, and eight years since I lost my father. I guess in some ways this book was a chance to go back in time, to visit that girl curled up in bed, miserable and confused, and to tell her: it will be okay. It does get better. In some ways it doesn't get better, but in other ways, it does. That's what heartbreak is: complicated and never-ending. Some days you'll think you're cured, you're over it, and other days you'll want to crawl under the covers just as you did sixteen years ago. But that's what books are here for.
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Another essay by Margo, about her experience after she lost her mother, was originally published in Mademoiselle, and can be read here.