Monday, September 27, 2010

This Side of the Sky by Marie-Francine Hebert

Here's a quick blurb from the Amazon page for this book: On this side of the sky, Mona and her kid sister, Bird, hide in the woods each day because it's far better than being home. But then there's the other side, the side Bird dreams of while she sits in the tall trees she climbs to get away from a life devoid of love. Bird may be eight, but her mind's only five, and Mona has to babysit her most of the time. All their father can do when he gets home is lie on the couch and watch TV, and with another baby on the way, it seems like Mona's mother is always too occupied with her own problems and misery to pay any attention to her.

They don't have many friends, but Mona and Bird have always had each other and the hideout of the hidden lake to run to when they needed to escape from mothers and fathers and teachers and bullies and the friends they want and the friends who need their help. But then Mona and Bird witness something terrible in the woods, and suddenly life changes forever for Mona and the others trapped on this side of the sky.

Written from Mona's perspective, this translation of a Governor General's Literary Award-nominee and winner of the PRIX DU LIVRE M. CHRISTIE explores themes of racism, sexual abuse, low self-esteem and the pain all these inflict on those who deserve it least.

My Take
I discovered this little book at a library sale.  It was a thin, small little book and sounded interesting from the cover description.  This little innocent looking book deals with some heavy hitting topics.  Racism, sexual abuse, alcoholism, among other things.

Mona and Bird are let to their own devices just about all the time in this book.  Mona is constantly told "go watch your sister".  Mona does her best to keep Bird from climbing too high in the trees, for fear she will fall and injure herself. 

It's discussed how Bird's mind is lagging behind her physical age.  However, I thought of the characters Bird was insightful and wise beyond her years.  She climbs trees escaping the live below.  If only she could get to the other side of the sky.  It was sad to see these two rag-a-muffin girls slog through life with little love or joy.  Not much in the way of role models among the adults surrounding them either.

This book is touching and inspiring to see how Mona and Bird finally handle the incident they've witnessed.
My favorite line: "This time our gift comes from life itself and is served up on a tray of stars."

Worth checking out for sure.  I would say due to the delicate nature of some of the themes, 13 and up is my recommended age.  I'm giving it 3 1/2 tender kisses!


  1. This book sounds horribly sad :(

    I have no doubt it's beautifully written though!
    I'm not sure if I'll pick this one up or not, but I might pass the title along to a friend of mine who truly enjoys books of this type!

    Thank you!

  2. Sounds like a gem. Maybe a tad sobering, but a good story nonetheless.

    Thanks for the review. I'll add it to my evergrowing list of "to reads."

  3. That is a beautiful line.

    What a sad story. As far as having the mind of a five-year-old in an eight-year-old body, I've found my children said many wise things when they were five. Often, those who are supposed to be behind have an understanding that's beyond what we expect.

    Thanks for the review.


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