When Matisse moves from New York City to the small town of Prague, New York, she feels like a city mouse forced into the life of a country mouse. She misses the sights and sounds of the metropolis, especially after she is chased by a crazy goose and woken by a rooster. Most of all, she misses her father. He was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease six years ago, and his severe decline in the past year prompted his family move. Theoretically, a change of scenery could be good for them, but the family barely speaks about his disease. Matisse is embarrassed and uncomfortable when her new neighbor mistakes her parents for her grandparents, and she is determined to keep her father's condition a secret from her classmates. She'd rather ignore the emails and phone calls from her concerned life-long best friend and make new friends who don't know what's going on at home. Instead, these interesting acquaintances - tell-it-like-it-is Violet, ultra-popular Marco, "rebel without a cause" activist Dylan, and hopeful young farmer Hal - surprise her with their reactions to her home life.
As the child of artists - her mother is a painter and her father a sculptor - Matisse is named accordingly. Because of that, I kept wishing that she would discover an artistic talent and express herself on canvas or on paper somehow. A physical manifestation of her emotions would have been a great climax. Without spoiling the book's conclusion, I'll say that I wouldn't mind seeing another book with Matisse as she comes to term with her father's illness and reconnects with her parents and maybe even with her old friend Cesse, all the while growing more into the person she will become.
Alive and Well in Prague, New York is the author's debut novel.
Read my interview with Daphne Grab.