Life on the Refrigerator Door by Alice Kuipers
HarperCollins, 220 pages
Claire and her mother are running out of time, but they don’t know it. Not yet. Claire is wrapped up with the difficulties of her bourgeoning adulthood—boys, school, friends, identity; Claire’s mother, a single mom, is rushed off her feet both at work and at home. They rarely find themselves in the same room at the same time, and it often seems that the only thing they can count on are notes to each other on the refrigerator door. When home is threatened by a crisis, their relationship experiences a momentous change. Forced to reevaluate the delicate balance between their personal lives and their bond as mother and daughter, Claire and her mother find new love and devotion for one another deeper than anything they had ever imagined.
Heartfelt, touching, and unforgettable, Life on the Refrigerator Door is a glimpse into the lives of mothers and daughters everywhere. In this deeply touching novel told through a series of notes written from a loving mother and her devoted fifteen-year-old daughter, debut author Alice Kuipers deftly captures the impenetrable fabric that connects mothers and daughters throughout the world. Moving and rich with emotion, Life on the Refrigerator Door delivers universal lessons about love in a wonderfully simple and poignant narrative.
When I was a kid, I remember my mom and dad leaving notes for us all over the house — sometimes on the closet, sometimes on the computer monitor, sometimes even on the front door. I do remember them leaving notes on the refrigerator door, and sometimes we do that, too, if only to make use of the magnets that we have managed to collect from wherever we’ve been from all over the years. Most of these notes were reminders, mostly, and sometimes even sorry notes (but those are usually left at the altar), but we were all fortunate enough to see each other a lot that we never had conversations by the refrigerator door.
It’s different for Claire and her mother though. Claire is an active 15-year-old and her mother is a doctor, and both of them hardly see each other within the day, so they both leave notes to each other on the refrigerator door. A little spoiler here, if you may? When Claire’s mom found out that she had cancer, their lives changed but the notes continued, and readers will witness the exchange between the mother and daughter as they struggle with their regular lives and the sickness that changes everything between them.
I thought the book would be filled with random notes and a story in between, but I was wrong — this book was made entirely out of their notes on the door, some short (“I’m at Emma’s.”) and some long, as in actual letters. This made Life on the Refrigerator Door a quick read, but it didn’t make it less of a heartwarming and sometimes heartbreaking read. I was left to fill in the blanks in between the notes, to figure out what happened at the last note and the next. It was a picture of a family painted in a different way, both of them (and the separated dad) trying to figure out how to deal with cancer that they were all trying to survive from.
It’s not exactly a happy novel, but it was a hopeful one, and I found myself tearing up especially at the last few pages. I couldn’t help but wish for a different ending, but in a way, the ending is also reality. I can’t really describe it properly because I’m blessed enough to not experience it, but I’m pretty sure people with family or relatives or friends who are battling cancer will be able to appreciate this more than I do.
It’s not a favorite book, but I’m glad I read it. :)
2010 Challenge Status:
* Book # 23 out of 100 for 2010