Mom, I went to the store. See inside the fridge. I watered the plants. I cleaned out Peter's cage. I tidied the sitting room. And the kitchen. And I did the washing up. I'm going to bed. Your live-in servant, Claire "Life on the Refrigerator Door" is told exclusively through notes exchanged by Claire and her mother, Elizabeth, during the course of a life-altering year. Their story builds to an emotional crescendo when Elizabeth is diagnosed with breast cancer. Stunningly sad but ultimately uplifting, this is a clever, moving, and original portrait of the relationship between a daughter and mother. It is about how we live our lives constantly rushing, and never making time for those we love. It is also an elegy to how much can be said in so few words, if only we made the time to say them.
Reaction Shot: I admit, I was wary of picking this book up, just because it was so very, very pink. Then I got into a fight with a year seven who wanted to read just because it was pink and then I had to read it. (... I don't think she actually wanted to read it! I think she just remembers me at Valentine's Day muttering darkly about all these pink books we have in the library, and was trying to accuse me of hypocrisy.) But epis - epi - epistolary, that's the word thank you heyheyrenay, are a particular Thing of mine. Especially when they're sort-of making me feel guilty for all the white space on the page.
(No, seriously - one of my favourite books when I was younger was called Jinx, by an Australian author, and it was told entirely in poems. The amount of empty space in that book made me writhe in guilt but I hearted that book so much!)
Okay, so, book written in the form of notes on a fridge. Some of it's the ordinary stuff - pick up the shopping, gone out, I'm at work delivering triplets, we've had a fight so I'm spending the night at my dad's if you notice I'm not here - and some of it's unexpectedly poetic, such as the letter where Claire asks about her mother's past, or her mother's descriptions of the world outside. Some of it's "I haven't had time to tell you properly, so I'm writing you a note to say I have cancer and leaving it on the fridge." The ordinary stuff - especially when it's telling the off-screen moments without actually telling them - worked, the cancer thing worked, the poetic notes made me go "Um" a little but, y'know, generally effective.
Well, apart from the fact that this is kinda... Lacking in emotional resonance. The story's fine, the writing gets the job done even when you look at it and go "You expect me to believe she put that on her fridge?" It just - doesn't work for me emotionally. I feel a vague sort of sympathy, but that's it. It kinda disappoints me, because I want to like it, and I want to feel something for them, but I can't. (And the ending just makes me roll my eyes instead of feeling sad, which... Probably wasn't the effect it was supposed to have.) I'm going to excuse Kuipers on the grounds that it's her first book, but next time I'll expect a hell of a lot better.
Verdict: It's as emotional as can be expecting of a book written in the form of notes on a fridge door, but it's not a necessarily a bad book.