Book Review: 'Mimi Malloy, At Last!' by Julia MacDonnell
It's books like these that make me actually want to explore other genres besided YA.
Although Mimi Malloy, At Last! is nothing like the teen stories that I've grown to love, I truly appreciate its emphasis on the importance of love and family. This book taught me that childhood experiences don’t have to dominate a person’s future. It showed me the harsh and painful consequences of trying to erase or repress old memories. It taught me that age is irrelevant when it comes to starting fresh and finding love. And it allowed me to feel that indescribable, special bond between close siblings.
From the moment that I began to read this story, I was drawn to Mimi’s down-to-earth tone and humor. I imagine that I would have disliked her character if the story were not told in her point of view, because on the surface, she came off as a curmudgeon. But once I got the chance to understand her on a deeper level, I could relate to and sympathize with her. The more I read, the more I started to love her as if she were my own grandmother.
But aside from Mimi’s magnetic personality, another strength that made me fall in love with this book was MacDonnell’s prose. The metaphors, especially, are just lovely. And as I read the story, I actually paused at certain points—just to marvel at how brilliant the comparisons were. Here’s one of my favorite examples:
“The map looks the way the inside of my head feels right now, the black spots shrunken up, beautiful colors swirling over them, a vast and gorgeous landscape ripe with possibility.”
And here’s another section that really stood out to me:
“After mam passed, we often climbed into bed with each other that night, all six of us. So close like that, sleeping, breathing softly together, it was like we shared one body. Lots of arms and legs, but a single heart and soul.”
See, descriptions like these added so much authenticity and vividness to Mimi’s story. It was like I was in Mimi’s shoes because when her daughters or sisters got on her case, I felt angry and annoyed right along with her. When she shared those adorable moments with Duffy, I blushed and giggled too. When she thought back to the warm memories with her precious Da, I just melted with joy. And whenever she thought back to those painful memories of Flanna, of how she ruined their entire family, I started to feel hurt. So as Mimi held on to that pendant and reflected on the past, I began to understand why she was the way she was. It turns out that she always had a legitimate reason for not opening up to people.
Reading this book really made me feel like I was a part of the Sheehan family. I went through a roller coaster of emotions as I got an inside look at their past, and it felt like I was witnessing the ripple effects of an extremely disturbing childhood firsthand. The most beautiful part, however, was that the sisters’ trips down memory lane brought them even closer together. Yes, the experience did lead to some conflict and tension between them, which made it painful for Mimi at times. But, the most important thing is that it this experience pushed Mimi to come to terms with the truth rather than ignoring it completely. It freed her, in a way, because she no longer has to bear the invisible burden of “black holes” that hold hidden memories.
Overall, I truly enjoyed reading this novel. My only issue was that the dialogue structure was a bit confusing for me. I found myself having to back track a couple of times because I could not tell which character was speaking. But aside from that, on the whole, this book was one of the most poignant tales I have ever read. I am beyond grateful that I had the opportunity to read such a fantastic and beautifully written book.