What I am Reading – Reconstructing Amelia

“I still maintain that the times get precisely the literature that they deserve, and that if the writing of this period is gloomy the gloom is not so much inherent in the literature as in the times.” ― Bill Styron

Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight is a difficult book to read and may leave you feeling very sad. So now I have warned you. I think it is an important book because it is a cautionary tale for the times in which we are living.

This is the story of a single mother (Kate Baron) and her daughter (Amelia). Kate is a rising star at a New York City law firm and Amelia is an honor student with a bright future attending a prestigious private school in Park Slope, Brooklyn. She is headed to a selective summer program at Princeton. Both do their best to excel. Kate strives to make sure her daughter’s future is secure only to tragically lose touch with her in the present.

The story is told from the alternating points of view of mother and daughter. Kimberly McCreight very effectively uses social media in the form of text messaging, Facebook, blogging and online videos to move the plot forward. In doing so, she drives home the terrifying fact that in today’s world of cyber bullying there is no place children are safe. You many never look at a gaggle of teenage girls madly texting away on their cell phones in the same way again.

Reconstructing Amelia impresses me as a writer because I found the voice of Amelia to be so true. McCreight takes you into her world: the parties, the boys, the academic competition and the girls. Any reader who is, or once was, a girl, can immediately relate to Amelia’s desire to be accepted. The inherent cruelty of girls in a group is instantly and painfully recognizable as is the reality that even the nicest girl can be mean or do something very stupid in the effort to belong.

Kate learns, as so many of us do, mistakes we make in our past have a way of following us through life. In the real world, there are no “do overs”.

Some of the plot twists ask a lot of the reader, but I believe the characters of Amelia and Kate more than compensate for that. McCreight keeps you hanging on their fates throughout the book. Kate Baron does things that at times make me want to shake her; I also understand why she does them. She loves her daughter and misguided though she may be, that remains apparent to the reader, if not always to Amelia.

Amelia Baron has lingered in my mind long after I finished this book. As a reader, there is no higher compliment I can pay to a writer.

I hope you find the book worth reading.

Picture of Reconstructing Amelia