The voices of a family, in verse
Love, Ghosts, and Facial Hair by popular Australian poet Steven Herrick will strike a chord with older readers. Like many teenagers, 16-year-old Jack is preoccupied with trying to demystify the opposite sex, as well as the changes happening in his pubescent body. Unlike many teenagers, Jack writes poetry and gets along quite well with his older sister. He even thinks the new-grown hair on her upper lip is kind of appealing. Oh, and it just so happens that on a regular basis, Jack sees a ghost the spirit of his mother, who died seven years earlier. As he experiences the push and pull of growing up, he writes of his experiences in witty verse, wherein he makes some wise observations about everything from socks to love, and amusingly expresses his frustration at his bizarrely lush nose hair. Herrick lets us in on the thoughts of Jack's father, sister and girlfriend Annabel, too. Each character takes a turn at free-verse exploration and at the explication of the events of their intertwined lives. They also share their observations and feelings about Jack. It's easy to see why Herrick's work is popular in Australia, and this book should please American readers as well. The characters' musings on family, career, loss and change are realistic, and range from poignant to droll. Readers will delight in Jack's increasing confidence, as his connection with Annabel enables him to focus on the future and its possibilities. And as he finds himself opening up to the notion of looking ahead rather than focusing on the past, Jack realizes that leaving the ghost behind doesn't mean he loves his mother any less, a truth that gives Love, Ghosts, and Facial Haira timeless resonance. Linda M. Castellitto writes from Rhode Island.