The Weight of a Thousand Feathers by Brian Conaghan
|The Weight of a Thousand Feathers by Brian Conaghan|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: Deeply moving story of a boy caring for his mother, who has MS, and his brother, who has learning disabilities. How far would you go for the ones you love?|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 368||Date: June 2018|
|External links: Author's website|
Funny how no one ever uses the word 'love' when discussing my case. I do what I do because she's my mum. That pure and that simple.
Bobby Seed's mum has MS and it's getting worse. Bobby, who is seventeen, shoulders most of her care. And he also keeps house and also looks after his little brother Danny. He gets some help from his best friend Bel, who has her own reasons for spending as much time as possible not at home, but it's still a slog. But Bobby doesn't mind because he loves his mum and they have a wonderful relationship, mostly based on taking the mickey out of each other. Bobby also attends a support group for young carers. It's a bit daft with all the role play exercises and the like, but it's nice to meet other kids in the same boat as you. Especially Lou, the American boy with the weird way of speaking and the Vespa and the air of cool. Bobby can barely keep his eyes off Lou.
But Mum is getting worse and she knows it. And she doesn't want the indignity of it all. She has a request for Bobby. It's a big ask and you can probably imagine what it is. What should Bobby do? What would you do?
Oh, my goodness. The Weight of a Thousand Feathers pretty much broke me. It's a beautiful book - straight talking, funny, angry, heartbreaking. It exploded off the page like a ten tonne bomb and left me in bits. There are thousands of young carers across the UK and this book is a love letter both to them and to the people they care for.
I'll get a minor whinge out of the way first. Without wishing to give anything away, there is a rather melodramatic scene that I felt the book would have been better without. It's there for a purpose: to create a crisis for Bobby from which he can find the right solution rather than the wrong one, so I understand its inclusion. I just can't help but think there might have been a better way. But this is a nitpick. Don't mind me.
Regardless, The Weight of a Thousand Feathers is a wonderful achievement. Brian Conaghan is a courageous writer, never afraid to really go there. The main focus of this book is Bobby's life as a young carer and the awful, wracking emotional toll this takes is clearly described. But it's not all about emotion - it's also about the nitty gritty of caring labour - the watching your mum have a pee because she can't balance on the toilet by herself, the food that can be managed and the food that can't, the lack of sleep. And it's also about the bad taste jokes between mother and son that make you, the reader, laugh through your tears. And somehow, this story fits in so much more - the rights and wrongs of assisted dying, a little brother with learning disabilities, a straight friend with a crush on a boy whose gay sexuality is awakening, a first love affair that goes wrong. It's a lot to juggle but Conaghan does it seamlessly. He even gives Bobby space for his poetry. And the scene in which Bobby tentatively reads one of his own poems to his mother broke my heart.
What else to say? I loved Bobby Seed and his brother Danny. And they love their mum. Brian Conaghan combines the straight and the blunt of kitchen sink writing with a luminous meditation on the nature of love and life and death. And he has shone a supportive spotlight on the lives of thousands of young carers across the UK. I cried buckets but I think they were good tears. Oh, and first class music references, Brian, first class!
If you are a young carer or you know a young carer who needs help, here is an NHS page with lots of advice and information.
Broken Soup by Jenny Valentine by Jenny Valentine is another beautiful and heart-rending novel that forces a young person into a stressful adult caring role.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Weight of a Thousand Feathers by Brian Conaghan at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The Weight of a Thousand Feathers by Brian Conaghan at Amazon.com.
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