A whole story told through notes left on a refrigerator door? Sounds difficult to do right, if right is even possible, doesn’t it? Before reading this I was very sceptical about the idea. I expected this book to be high on the novelty value and sentimentality, and when I picked it up in the library I did so because I thought the style would be interesting, if not the content.
It’s the story of the relationship between a mother and daughter before, during, and after the mother becomes seriously ill – I won’t go into more detail or I might spoil it. Surprisingly, this book doesn’t come across as gimmicky. It is an honest, and ultimately very sad (I cried! My sister cried too!) story elegantly told through the notes the mother and daughter leave each other. Although they only communicate with each other and us the readers through notes, I still got a real sense of the characters. However, the ending feels a bit too abrupt, it’s not as well paced as the rest of the book and I would have liked it to go on longer although the author does her best to draw it to a neat conclusion.
I did wonder if it would have been just as effective or more so if told in a more conventional style. On the one hand, you don’t really need to know any more about the characters for the story to work and to have its emotional impact, but on the other, there’s some stuff you just have to guess at, and sometimes the notes did seem a little unrealistic.
The biggest drawback of this book, in my opinion, not a criticism, but a drawback – is that it is very quick to read. It took me 45 minutes. It’s a good book to have in libraries, and possibly to encourage reluctant readers, but I imagine the sparseness of the text, for lack of a better description, puts off some potential readers seeing it in a shop. If I’d seen it in a shop before the library, I wouldn’t have considered buying it. It does a lot in those 45 minutes, I remember the story in surprising detail, but I’m sure most readers that pick up Life on the Refrigerator Door see that it will be a quick read straight away, and that must put them off ‘investing’ in it.