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The Boy on the Green BicycleReview - The Boy on the Green Bicycle
A Memoir
by Margaret Diehl
Soho Press, 1999
Review by Margo McPhillips
Feb 29th 2000 (Volume 4, Issue 9)

I stood for a long moment in the silence, then walked slowly down the stairs. I ran my hand along the banister and made myself think reasonably. Everyone is asleep or downstairs. Probably downstairs. They knew when to get up, what to do. What to do? This is the morning of the day after Jimmy died. How does one act on such a morning?

This is a story of profound loss; the author lost her older brother to a car accident when she was ten and he fourteen; he is the boy on the green bicycle. Six months later her father committed suicide. I knew, when I picked up the book that it was about loss and was attracted to it for that reason; my mother died when I was young and I was looking for parallels of experience and perhaps explanations or validations of feeling. I found a number of coincidences: the author is very close to my age, the number of children and family economic situation, background and upbringing were similar to mine, and even the author's given name is the same as mine, Margaret. But above all, it was the author's writing style and character that I found the most compelling.

Throughout the book the author is "herself" and explores what she found inside her young heart, mind and emotions. Knowing the book was about loss, I became anxious when I started to be captivated by the charm of the author's style, sense of wonder, and fluidity of expression and experienced the book as I would a good novel. Every now and then as I was reading, waiting for the "bad" scenes and trying to brace my own emotions, I'd seek to calm and comfort myself with the reminder, "it's just a novel" only to remember, it's not. I felt as if it was my young heart, mind and emotions that were being exposed and, what was worse, I was not in control of that exposure.

This is not a book for the faint of heart; it is about life as it was really lived, in all its pain and other messy, discomfiting emotions such as anger, confusion, fear and loneliness. It's not a comforting or pleasant book to read but I found it hopeful and human. I found explanations and validations of feelings and gained much from "watching" the author wade through the dreary hard work and struggle of grief to arrive at, "I adapt." My hope is, since I feel the author did her work exceptionally well, then I can continue to do well myself, using this book as a blueprint and example.

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