Jack Gantos is perhaps best known as the author of books for younger readers, including the award-winning Joey Pigza novels for middle graders and the Rotten Ralph picture books. But Gantos has written successfully for young adults as well. In his new novel, The Love Curse of the Rumbaughs, Gantos offers a darkly delicious tale that will both challenge and appeal to teen readers.
In an introduction, the author describes the book as a plain and true small-town story about a family love curse that is so passionate and so genuinely expressed that it transcends everything commonly accepted about how love reveals itself or conceals itself. The narrator of this small-town Pennsylvania tale is a girl named Ivy, who lives with her mother in the Kelly Hotel, across the street from the Rumbaugh pharmacy. The pharmacy is owned by the eccentric twins, Ab and Dolph, who are alike in more than looks and profession. As Ivy discovers, the twins are bound by a powerful love for their mother, the overbearing Mrs. Rumbaugh. Mrs. Rumbaugh, however, has been dead for eight years. But Ab and Dolph have found a way to do something extraordinary to keep their love for her alive something that appalls Ivy, but also makes perfect sense to her, because she loves her own mother as passionately and fully as they love theirs. Don't worry, Ivy tells her mother later. Someday I'll do the same to you, too. And in that moment, a truth is revealed that sets in motion the course of Ivy's life choices. For Ivy, too, is inflicted with the curse of the Rumbaughs the curse of loving her mother too much. (Without giving too much away, do take care if your teen takes an interest in taxidermy after reading this book.)
In this darkly funny novel, Gantos explores what it means to lose a parent, especially a beloved mother. Without monsters or the supernatural, Gantos has exploited the traditions of the gothic to create a funny, sad and thought-provoking novel for teens.
Deborah Hopkinson's latest book of nonfiction is Up Before Daybreak.