Title: Mathilda Savitch
Author: Victor Lodato
Release Date: September 15, 2009
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Genre: Literary Fiction
Source: Amazon Vine
Rating: 4 out of 5
Mathilda Savitch’s older sister died one year ago, pushed in front of a train by a man who is still on the loose. Mathilda’s parents have been sleepwalking through their lives ever since, completely unable to get past their grief. Tired of the situation, Mathilda decides that she is going to solve the mystery of her sister’s death. But what she doesn’t expect is that she will have to make some hard realizations of her own, and there may be aspects of her own grief that she hasn’t dealt with quite yet.
Mathilda Savitch was not what I expected at all. I thought it was going to be a YA book about a teenager dealing with the aftermath of her sister’s death. However, after finishing it, I have to say I don’t consider the book to be YA. Though the protagonist is indeed a teenager, this book is much more literary fiction in my eyes.
Mathilda was a difficult character to like in a lot of ways. She was often cruel, though she didn’t mean to be. She was trying to navigate a world in which she appeared to have absolutely no guidance, since her parents were so detached. In order to get their attention, she was a source of pain for them rather than a source of pleasure.
She also was an incredibly precocious teen, while also being utterly clueless at the same time. It’s difficult to fathom how this is even possible in a character, yet Victor Lodato manages to pull it off in Mathilda Savitch. Her dichotomy makes her very interesting. The reader has to wonder how she is so smart and bright, yet so incredibly self-deluding at the same time. It makes her a complex, nuanced character that leaps off the page.
Terrorism also indirectly plays a large role in Mathilda Savitch. Mathilda is old enough to remember the 9/11 attacks and is permanently terrified as a result of them. She is constantly in fear that there will be a terrorist attack; obsessing over her sister’s death could be a coping mechanism for her fear of terrorism. Or it could work the other way around – her preoccupation with terrorism could be the way she is dealing with her sister’s passing.
Mathilda Savitch is an incredibly interesting work of literary fiction that I definitely recommend. It is relatively short and easy to read, yet its multiple layers really make the reader think. Fans of more serious YA would likely enjoy this novel as well.