Maria Donovan?s debut novel, The Chicken Soup Murder, subverts the crime and murder mystery genres in a meditation on bereavement, friendship and the meaning of family. This emotionally involving coming-of-age narrative is told with resilience and humour by eleven-year-old Michael, a thoughtful boy who tests the boundaries of his own behaviour as he carries a burden of knowledge no one else seems willing to share.
Michael?s happy early life in a small seaside town ? a cosy world of cricket and football, experiences shared with his best friend Janey and her family ? is disrupted by the arrival of a bully, and blasted by visitations from Death: the biggest bully of them all. Within Michael?s own past are unanswered questions: why does he live with his grandmother? Are his parents really in prison? His magical creative thinking lands him in trouble: how reliable is his story and why is he the only one who thinks that a murder has been committed? What can he, a schoolboy about to turn twelve, do about it? Haunted by the injustice of a killing, he takes on the burden of trying to do the right thing: first helping the widowed mother of his best friend, and then seeking justice for a murdered woman, as he resorts to making trouble in order to get at the truth. As Michael struggles to help himself and the people he cares for to move on, he learns about the acceptance of the facts of natural death ? whether unexpected or predictable, caused by illness or accident. He sees what happens to those left behind when a loved one dies and, above all, how to recognise and overcome the stumbling block formed by the deliberate taking of a life to those who are grieving.
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