Anyone who has grieved the loss of a loved one will feel an immediate connection to Mia, the narrator of this intimate novel. Mia is a freshman at the Bronx High School of Science when her mother dies 12 days after being diagnosed with cancer. During the next several months, life falls back into a routine, but everything that Mia experiences—meeting new people, watching her father fall in love again, and discovering the difference between infatuation and love—is accompanied by a sense of longing. Haunted by memories of her mother, Mia is feeling particularly vulnerable when tragedy strikes a second time, as her father suffers a heart attack. His subsequent bypass surgery goes well; nonetheless, Mia remains painfully aware of the consequences of mortality. Not until she befriends a cancer survivor does she begin to trust in life again. Despite its title, this novel does not offer a "cure" for Mia's heartbreak. Rather, it gives readers a keenly insightful study of grief. Rabb balances sorrow with humor, and sprinkles quotes by renowned writers on the subjects of love and loss as additional food for thought. The author, who like Mia lost her mother as a young adult, writes with authority and precision. Ages 14-up. (Feb.)Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Cures for Heartbreakby Margo Rabb, Margo Rabb
Margo Rabb’s critically acclaimed debut novel Cures for Heartbreak—a somber yet humorous depiction of love, loss, and new beginnings—has been reissued with a stunning new look.
Less than two weeks after fifteen-year-old Mia Pearlman’s mother is diagnosed with cancer, she dies, leaving Mia, her older sister, and their father to face/b>
Margo Rabb’s critically acclaimed debut novel Cures for Heartbreak—a somber yet humorous depiction of love, loss, and new beginnings—has been reissued with a stunning new look.
Less than two weeks after fifteen-year-old Mia Pearlman’s mother is diagnosed with cancer, she dies, leaving Mia, her older sister, and their father to face this sudden and unfathomable loss. As Mia struggles to navigate her grief, she’s also forced to examine the truth about her parents’ rocky marriage, her unexpected feelings for a guy with leukemia, and the nagging health phobias that plague her on a daily basis. Ultimately, her journey down this road slowly paves the way for hope amid immeasurable loss.
In this heartfelt novel that Michael Chabon called “sad, funny, smart, and endlessly poignant,” Margo Rabb dives deep into the complicated emotions that befall a family after the death of a loved one.
Read an Excerpt
The funeral director's name was Manny Musico.
"Is that like a stage name?" my sister, Alex, asked.
"No," he said proudly. "It's real." The gel in his black curls glistened; his teeth sparkled in the artificial light. He was good-looking in a soap opera way and seemed young for his profession.
I leaned over to my sister and whispered, "What a morbid job."
Manny also had supersonic hearing. "A lot of people think so, but it's not morbid at all!" His voice boomed like a Broadway star's; he adjusted his lapels and beamed. I wouldn't have been entirely shocked if spotlights had flicked on, coffins opened up, dancing corpses emerged, and Manny led us all in the opening number of Funeral!, the musical.
"Getting down to business," Manny said, "can I please have the death certificate?"
My father handed it to him and recounted the details about our mother–a sudden death, twelve days after the diagnosis; no, no one expected it; he was sorry too. Forms were filled out. Then Manny invited us to view the coffins.
"She went into the hospital with a stomachache," my dad continued as Manny led us downstairs and along a wood-paneled corridor to the coffin vault.
Manny said, "We've gotten some new models in."
The coffins: luxury models lined with silk, the plain pine box preferred by the Orthodox. My eyes bulged at the prices. A thousand dollars. Two thousand. Four thousand. The caskets had names–Abraham, Eleazar, Moses, Shalom.
"How about the Eleazar?" my father asked. The Eleazar cost $1,699.
"It looks okay," I said. This could not be happening. Oak finish. Satin-lined. "Are we going to get the Star of David on top?"
"I think it costs extra. But what the hell. I think Omi and Opa would want it." Omi and Opa were my mother's parents.
"We don't need the fucking star," my sister growled.
Manny decided to leave us alone with the coffins. "I'll give you some time to decide."
My father examined the finish of the Abraham and said for the fifth time in two days, "We're in a play in which the funeral is the last act," in his usual deadpan tone.
"That's new," Alex snapped. "Did you get that out of a book or something?"
"He can repeat it if he wants to," I said.
She glared at me. "Mia thinks we are in a play–rated triple X. Did you see her this morning?" she asked our father. "She was trying on a slutty dress to wear to the funeral."
"It wasn't a slutty dress." It was a velvet halter dress I'd recently worn to a sweet sixteen. I touched the shiny handle of the $4,000 mahogany Shalom. "It's my only black dress. It's not like I wanted to wear pasties and a G-string."
"I wouldn't be surprised if you did."
"You shut up."
"You shut up."
"Girls," our father said. "Please. Girls. After this, we'll go shopping."
This was a shock, since he found shopping as enjoyable as setting himself on fire.
Manny poked his head in. "Everything okay?"
"Fine," my father said. "We'll take the Eleazar, with the Star of David." He answered more questions, signed some paperwork, and as we got ready to leave, he told Manny we were off to Bloomingdale's.
"Have fun," Manny called after us.
The Shopping Trip
My father pulled up to a hydrant a block from Bloomingdale's. "I'll wait here, save on parking," he said, and unfurled his beloved New York Times. He handed my sister his credit card like it was a rare gem.
To my mother and me, Bloomingdale's was a spiritual homeland. I worshipped those dresses on the mannequins in the windows, the bright pocketbooks swinging on silver racks, and the gleaming sky-high stilettos. Every time we shopped there, I'd inhale the heady perfumes and sweet chemical scent of brand-new clothes as my mother and I scanned the store for deities (she'd once sighted Marilyn Monroe at the Chanel counter, and I'd seen Molly Ringwald in Shoes on 2.) Then we'd ogle the merchandise.
We'd try not to buy too much (so my father wouldn't kill us), but we'd soon find ourselves happily cascading up the escalator with a big brown bag of on-sale skirts, barrettes, pantyhose, underwear, and of course Estee Lauder products that were accompanied by free gifts. My mother hoarded these free bonuses–lacquered boxes, makeup kits, tote bags, pocket mirrors.
My sister had never been part of our shopping trips. Now I watched her galumph down the aisles in her hiking boots, jeans, and Mets jersey, digging through the racks and making faces at the clothes. Her hair frizzed around her head like a dandelion.
"I'll be in Dresses," I said. I walked over to that section and there I saw it on the sale rack. Cap-sleeved chiffon with an embroidered overlay; I'd tried on this dress two months before with my mother. We hadn't bought it–it was $149–but I'd fallen for this dress. We'd oohed and aahed. We'd held our breath, fingering the embroidery.
I stared at the price tag: $119 on sale. Not much of an improvement.
I eyed the skinny girls with pink backpacks browsing the racks and thought, My mother would want me to have this dress. Maybe she'd left the dress here, in fact, for me to wear. Maybe it was a sign.
I walked over to my sister, who was holding black pants and a matching shirt. "Guess I'll get this," she sighed, as if buying them would cause her physical pain. She stared at the dress draped over my arm. "Is that a scarf?"
"It's a dress."
I rolled my eyes.
"How much?" she asked.
I shrugged. "Not much."
She lifted the price tag. "One hundred and nineteen? What is that, drachmas? Shekels?"
"I'm getting it," I said.
Her voice rose. "You're not paying a hundred and nineteen dollars for a scarf!"
The customers on line gaped at us. "It's for Mommy's funeral," I said. "I think a nice dress is worth it for Mommy's funeral." As soon as the words were out I wished I hadn't said them. My entire life had become a CBS Sunday Night Movie, and it was only getting worse.
Her eyes flashed. "There's no way we're buying that dress!"
I threw it on the counter. "Fine. Forget it." My throat dried up. I marched off to the escalator.
I rode it down to Hosiery and wandered around the pantyhose. I could run away. Where would I go? Upstate? The wilderness? I imagined riding Metro-North and getting off at the last stop, wherever that was, and starting a new life. Ten minutes later I headed out the main door in the vague direction of Grand Central Station.
Alex was waiting on the sidewalk. I ignored her and hurried up the street.
"Here's your stupid dress," she said from behind me, waving the shopping bag at me. I walked away from her; she caught up. I walked faster; she did too. I started running, and she chased after me; I arrived at the car out of breath, ahead of her.
"I got here first," I said inanely, as if I needed to prove I'd won the pre-funeral foot race, an ancient ceremonial Jewish tradition.
Is God a Comedian from the Borscht Belt?
My mother had told us the diagnosis herself, the first night she was in the hospital. We were all there, my father, Alex, and me, at the foot of my mother's bed, sitting there awkwardly, trying to pretend this was a natural, normal family situation, the four of us hanging around her hospital bed.
"Well." She smiled. "Melanoma."
She shrugged. And smiled again, as if it was amusing, as if she really wanted to say, Ha! Isn't this funny? Cancer. I thought I had a stomachache.
We all sort of smiled then, the four of us with these sick, manic, dumb, painfully goofy smiles, because we didn't know what else to do. It was like a Norman Rockwell painting gone awry–Gee, Mom's got Cancer!–and our frozen, psychotic grins.
Then the four of us went to the solarium, and Alex and I talked about school, grades, Alex's senior-year research paper on isotopes, my new nail polish. A normal conversation, things would be normal. The cancer had metastasized to my mother's liver. "You never know what can happen," a nurse told us later. "Remain hopeful."
I didn't know it that night, but that was the last normal conversation I'd have with my mother. Perhaps this was why I replayed the diagnosis scene so often in my head in the days leading up to the funeral, trying to understand it, to revise it, to make myself say something important, anything.
I'd waited to cry until I'd gotten in bed that night. I cried till I ran out of tears, and then I lay there and could feel my insides churning. I hadn't known that it would be such a tangible, physical pain, yet so much worse than anything that was only physical. My insides churned and churned as if machines were methodically grinding my inner organs to a pulp. I used to think the worst pain I'd ever felt was one summer when I'd slipped on wet leaves in the alley behind our house and broke my arm. Now I wanted to laugh at my own stupidity. I'd thought that had hurt?
Meet the Author
Margo Rabb is an acclaimed novelist whose debut, Cures for Heartbreak, was hailed by critics and young readers alike. Her essays and short stories have appeared in the New York Times, the Atlantic, the Rumpus, Zoetrope: All-Story, Seventeen, Best New American Voices, New Stories from the South, and One Story, and have been broadcast on NPR. She received the grand prize in the Zoetrope short story contest, first prize in the Atlantic fiction contest, and a PEN Syndicated Fiction Project Award. Margo grew up in Queens, New York, and has lived in Texas, Arizona, and the Midwest; she now lives in Philadelphia with her husband and two children.
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Cures For Heartbreak by Margo Rabb deals with the subject of loss throughout the novel, as its title may suggest. Set in 1991 in Queens, the story revolves around Mia, her sister Alex, and their father. Semi-biographical, the novel chronicles the family's grieving process when Mia's mother (Greta) is admitted to the hospital with a stomachache and dies twelve days later from advanced melanoma. The most surprising thing about the novel is how vivid Rabb's imagery is throughout. Rabb's simple language and conversational tone make the story and characters come alive on the page. Mia's loss is palpable throughout her narration: "My father handed [the death certificate] to him and recounted the details about our mother--a sudden death, twelve days after the diagnosis; no, no one expected it he was sorry too. Forms were filled out. Then Manny invited us to view the coffins." Rather than sympathizing with Mia in an abstract way, readers are completely drawn into the story. It feels like the novel is describing the reader's personal experiences and talking about their own loss instead of the characters'. Another dimension is added to the novel because Mia's family is Jewish, her mother arriving in the USA as a baby with her parents in 1939 before America closed its borders to refugee Jews. Rabb uses these close memories of World War Two and the Holocaust to examine Mia's loss in a larger context. The story is incredibly sad, obviously, but also beautiful. It's comforting to see the family try to move forward. Rabb's level of realism is amazing--I felt like I was reading stories from my own life, the details were that vivid. This novel actually feels more like a series of inter-connected short stories. The plot moves through funeral preparations, friendship, an engagement, and another funeral as Mia's wayward family tries to reconfigure itself without Greta's grounding presence. And eventually the family does figure it out. When the novel ends it is clear that the situation is not ideal, can't be ideal, but that it does get easier to keep going. Because, as Rabb suggests, the most important thing is to keep going in the face of loss. Rather than stay with the grieving process, Rabb shows that losing someone is never the end of a relationship. It's just a reason to value memories even more.
awesome book with tthe perfect amount of romance sorrow and growing up
CURES FOR HEARTBREAK reads more like a series of interconnected short stories than a novel, but the format works. It gives the readers brief, poignant glimpses into the life of its narrator, Mia, during the first year after her mother's sudden death. Told with both humor and painful rawness, the novel should resonate with those who have experienced a loss, and make those who haven't feel almost as if they've been there, too.
What makes the disjointed structure work better than anything else is the many well-developed characters. Each chapter focuses on Mia's relationships with those around her: her father, her older sister, her friends and teachers at school, the people she meets at the hospital, and her memories of her mother. Every character is fleshed out on the page, with distinctive voices and quirks, so even in the short glimpses readers get, they get a clear picture of the relationships and how Mia is starting to get back to "normal" life among them.
Mia's voice is equally important in making the novel work. Where it could have been flat-out depressing and perhaps overwhelming, her sarcastic comments and comic approaches to certain situations (for example, she images the funeral home as a morbid Broadway musical) break the sadness, while also making the tragedy seem all that much worse in its absurdity. Wavering between jadedness and insecurity, Mia comes across as fully human, too old to be a kid any more but too young to know how to be an adult. Teen readers should find her an easy character to sympathize with, and an entertaining narrator for the journey.
CURES FOR HEARTBREAK is not an easy read, simply because of the subject matter and the depth with which it is portrayed. But the humor and the engaging characters will draw readers in, and Mia's progress through mourning will keep them reading, wondering how she will reshape her life after this unexpected turn. She makes mistakes, and struggles with her emotions and fears, but she grows and learns as well. And in the end, there's more hope than sorrow.
It was difficult to come up with a descriptor for this book. Initially, I would have said that this book is raw. The emotions are so close to the surface. After pondering, I had to revise that descriptor to real. This is a book that blurs the lines between YA fiction and fiction for the populace at large. Mia Pearlman is a sixteen year old who has suffered the heartache of a mother who has died of melanoma twelve days after the cancer diagnosis has been given. Mia¿s father is so traumatized by the event that he succumbs to a heart attack, and Mia and her older sister, Alex, face the very real possibility that their father may die as well. The entire story is a poignant narrative of a life spent trying to make sense of tragedy. The author¿s note and acknowledgements illuminate the story further. This story is partially autobiographical. The genuineness of the reactions and the noticing of the smallest, seemingly irrelevant, details are the ingredients of a story and a voice with which readers will immediately connect. Because the emotions are so close to the surface, it may not be a story that students who are going through the grieving process can handle. On the other hand, it may prove to be a cathartic experience. There are some fairly explicit sexual references that may titillate more juvenile readers, but the scenarios are not gratuitously added. This is a book that I would add to my own personal library of stories that should be read and reread.
CURES FOR HEARTBREAK reads more like a series of interconnected short stories than a novel, but the format works. It gives the readers brief, poignant glimpses into the life of its narrator, Mia, during the first year after her mother's sudden death. Told with both humor and painful rawness, the novel should resonate with those who have experienced a loss, and make those who haven't feel almost as if they've been there, too. What makes the disjointed structure work better than anything else is the many well-developed characters. Each chapter focuses on Mia's relationships with those around her: her father, her older sister, her friends and teachers at school, the people she meets at the hospital, and her memories of her mother. Every character is fleshed out on the page, with distinctive voices and quirks, so even in the short glimpses readers get, they get a clear picture of the relationships and how Mia is starting to get back to 'normal' life among them. Mia's voice is equally important in making the novel work. Where it could have been flat-out depressing and perhaps overwhelming, her sarcastic comments and comic approaches to certain situations (for example, she images the funeral home as a morbid Broadway musical) break the sadness, while also making the tragedy seem all that much worse in its absurdity. Wavering between jadedness and insecurity, Mia comes across as fully human, too old to be a kid any more but too young to know how to be an adult. Teen readers should find her an easy character to sympathize with, and an entertaining narrator for the journey. CURES FOR HEARTBREAK is not an easy read, simply because of the subject matter and the depth with which it is portrayed. But the humor and the engaging characters will draw readers in, and Mia's progress through mourning will keep them reading, wondering how she will reshape her life after this unexpected turn. She makes mistakes, and struggles with her emotions and fears, but she grows and learns as well. And in the end, there's more hope than sorrow. **Reviewed by: Lynn Crow
Cures for Heartbreak, by Margo Rabb, is an emotional story of a girl named Mia and her family as they go through the struggles of the death of their mother. Mia's mother goes to the hospital with a stomach and finds out she has the cancer, melanoma. twelve days later she is dead. this is a huge shock to Mia, her father, and her sister Alex. They never knew that their mother would die so quickly. the doctor said she had a good chance of remission, and then it started to get alot worse over the next few days. After the death of her mother, Mia's father suffers a heart attack and is put in the hospital. He is told that he needs to have tripple bypass surgery, which is just one more oppurtunity for Mis to be worried. As Mia's life goes on with just her father and her sister, she begins to realize alot about true love and its meaning. She has simple crushes, but wishes she could have true love. Mia's journey through the death of her mother, the heart health of her father, her sister going to college, and finding true love, is a stroy that all readers can relate to. i highly recomend Cures For Heartbreak to everyone, and espicially to people going through a rough time.