Paperback, 448 pages
Published: September 30, 2008 by Bantam Discovery (1st Published January 1, 2008)
Thank You For All Things is told in the voice of eleven-year-old Lucy Marie McGowan. She and her brother Milo are highly gifted twins, homeschooled by their struggling single mom, Tess, in Chicago. Unlike her profoundly gifted twin, who enjoys writing about string theory and calculating pi to as many digits as possible, Lucy has an I.Q. of “only” 144. She is gifted at reading people. She plans to be a psychologist someday, and she knows more about Freud and Jung than most college psychology majors. She also longs to learn the truth about her missing father.
The family learns that Tess’s father, a grandfather the twins have never met, is dying. Lucy, Milo and Tess make to trip to Timber Falls, Wisconsin, with Lucy’s New Agey grandmother, who is determined to care for her ex-husband until he dies.
Lucy gets to know her grandfather as she watches his strength and mental acuity diminish. She is also on a quest — she’s determined to learn about her paternity and, in the process, to unravel secrets about her mother’s past. She questions neighbors and secretly reads her mother’s diaries. She is upset by what she uncovers: a family history fraught with cruelty. Yet ultimately, as she watches her mother grieve her painful childhood, Lucy begins to accept it, grasping the balance of good and evil in the grandfather she’s grown to love. At the same time, she must move toward accepting her grandfather’s death.
At first glance, I saw stereotypes in this book, such as the New Age-obsessed grandma and the uber-smart, geeky homeschooled kids. But as the author guided me more deeply into the story, I came to know a cast of richly developed, quirky, likeable characters. These characters, along with the intriguing story of a family’s journey through coping with a death and making peace with the past, are interwoven with a wealth of description, rich in color and detail.
I smile as the breeze brushes my cheeks and dries my eyes as if I’m ice skating. I look to the north of the house, where the red maples in low-lying spots are blotched with deep red, and to a patch of sugar maples that are just beginning to tinge with a brighter, orangier red…
The part of the book that touched me most deeply were the accounts of coping with death — one character is mourning the loss of a baby and others are watching a parent and grandparent die. These experiences resonated with me, and I found the author’s description of dying and grieving to be remarkably clear and real.
I liked nearly everything about this book: the memorable characters, the family drama, its quirky spirituality, and the vivid imagery. I highly recommend it to fiction lovers, particularly those who relish family dramas.