A Reader Opines: Mira in the Present Tense by Sita Brahmachari

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Mira in the Present Tense by Sita Brahmachari
Publication: September 1st 2013 by Albert Whitman & Company (first published May 3rd 2011 in the UK by Macmillan Children’s Books as Artichoke hearts)
Genre: Young Adult | Coming of Age | Realistic Fiction
My Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Some books are just lovely. Even if they make you cry, they are lovely. Mira in the Present Tense is one such book. I picked it up from the library on a whim and am very pleased with my choice.

Summary taken from Goodreads:
Twelve-year-old Mira comes from a chaotic, artistic and outspoken family where it’s not always easy to be heard. As her beloved Nana Josie’s health declines, Mira begins to discover the secrets of those around her, and also starts to keep some of her own. She is drawn to mysterious Jidé, a boy who is clearly hiding a troubled past and has grown hardened layers – like those of an artichoke – around his heart. As Mira is experiencing grief for the first time, she is also discovering the wondrous and often mystical world around her.

Brahmachari has created memorable characters and released them into the real world. Mira is a complex twelve-year-old dealing with pressures both common and rare and she does so beautifully. Nana Josie is one of those grandmothers that could easily embarrass her grandchildren, but her eccentricities are such that said grandchildren accept her proudly. Both characters are fully developed and I longed to meet both of them.

The story is wonderfully complex and elegantly simplistic. Mira experiences the angst of crossing thresholds such as getting her first period, opening her heart to a boy and discovering the ugly extremes of our world. At the same time, her Nana Josie is dying from cancer. Mira walks the path with her Nana by helping her paint the coffin she will be cremated in, joining her on a pilgrimage to say goodbye to places and people and simply sitting with her when she’s too tired to do anything else.

I found this book to be an emotional journey that wrung tears from my eyes and filled my heart to bursting. Mira reminded me of my youth and the anxiety that goes with growing up; she made me see the death of my father (who I watched die of cancer) from another perspective. The story shed light on the Rwandan Genocide and the heartache of its survivors. So much emotion filled the pages of Mira in the Present Tense that I’ll not soon forget it.

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