Life On The Refrigerator Door by Alice Kuipers

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Life On The Refrigerator Door by Alice Kuipers

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: A young teenage girl and her mother have serious things to say, but only through messages pinned to the kitchen surfaces in this sterling and quick read the Bookbag recommends.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 224 Date: August 2007
Publisher: Macmillan
ISBN: 978-0230531376

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Well, I thought, I’ll try this interesting looking bit of chick-lit with its awfully pink cover and individual stylistic approach, and if needed pass it off to the librarian as destined for someone else. I needn’t have bothered – the chick-lit definition was my first and only mistake.

The book is certainly on its way to being unique by being constructed entirely of notes pinned to the fridge door by one of a pair of females – Mom, and C, or Claire, or Claire-Bear, depending on mood.

On the surface there is a clearly damning message of how our lives are too busy to include proper one-to-one contact, but what draws our female cast list apart are on the pleasant side of trivial – C is busy with baby-sitting assignments, homework, and “someone called Michael”. We can forgive Mom for being very busy, as she survives being a maternity nurse without a mobile phone (in perhaps the book’s only illogicality), and is often on call at awkward hours either end of C’s school day.

However it is below the surface that the crux of the book lies – in all senses imaginable. The contents of the messages sink from the everyday – shopping lists, notes regarding the state of the family rabbit’s cage or the lack of pocket money – to the more serious concerns of Claire’s father, living elsewhere, and Mom’s newly-discovered lump on her breast.

What this all results in is a perfectly quick and powerful diary of a few months in this nicely detailed relationship between a pair of very well defined characters. There are many sections where they do manage to sit round the table (or the hutch) and talk things over, and we’re made instantly clear where these are and what has happened and been said, but the style of the book really shows up the narrative voice as totally unnecessary.

There is a great depth in the book that other volumes would give their right-hand pages for – aided by the paring back to the essentials of the story that Alice Kuipers has done. The pages turn most rapidly as hardly any messages – chapters if you like – reach the bottom of the page, and yet the plot is revealed in a composed and considered way.

To be on the negative side for one moment, there was a bad clunk when I found one message from Claire that made her too self-aware that the proceedings have made her grown up instantly, but that’s nothing considering how bad and sickly the book could have turned out. I would consider it a very educational little book for the Claires of this world but it never sets out its stall in such a purposeful way. Never would the teen reader fail to be empathising with the daughter here and think she was being talked down to.

The publishers are trying to do a Mark Haddon here by publishing the book as a teen and as a general fiction title (the teen offering often has a different price on Amazon, which might be worth thinking about). I would certainly encourage this as this little book deserves all the audience it can get. The style is great, and perfect for the subject, and never is the book cloying or soapy or preachy. Instead it is 40 minutes of first class fiction, which I strongly recommend you pick up. It might well have got five stars on any other day, and perhaps the only barrier to that precious rating is the question of value – this is when all is said and done a short story, but a perfect little one.

Buy Life On The Refrigerator Door by Alice Kuipers at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Life On The Refrigerator Door by Alice Kuipers at

Buy Life On The Refrigerator Door by Alice Kuipers at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Life On The Refrigerator Door by Alice Kuipers at


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