Book recommendation: Life on the Refrigerator Door, by Alice Kuipers

I can’t believe I haven’t posted a recommendation for Alice Kuiper’s Life on the Refrigerator Door here yet. I’ve owned this book for years; I think I bought it while I was still in university.

In fact, I can still remember buying it. I picked it off the bookstore shelf and, after reading the back copy, opened it out of curiosity. I read the first note inside. Then the next. Then the next. And before I knew it, I was having to talk myself into closing the book so I didn’t stand in that aisle and read the whole thing.

I’ve read it two or three more times since that first time, and it’s been just as difficult to put down each time. Let me tell you a little about why.

Claire and her mother don’t have much time for each other. Between Claire’s busy high school life and her mother’s busy job, the two rarely see each other, and are often forced to communicate through notes rather than full conversations. Claire’s mother’s looming health crisis, however, forces a them to face not only their method of communication, but their entire relationship.

I was initially drawn into Life on the Refrigerator Door by both its story and its format. Yes, there were events and conversations we don’t actually get to see, but so much communication happens between Claire and her mother via notes alone. They both lead such busy lives, until they’re forced to slow down. That’s when we start really missing out on things, and yet… I don’t mind. It hurts, but it works. Which is why the story pulled at my heart from that first read—though, of course, it hits me differently now than it did when I first bought it, because of events that have since happened in my life.

And it’s also why I love the format so much. We learn a lot in such little notes, and yet more because of what’s left out of them.

It’s wonderful and it’s unique. Yes, we’re seeing more novels presented through text messages now, but prior to this novel and still, I haven’t seen a book told through scraps of paper. That on its own wouldn’t make it worth recommending, but combining that with the novel’s heart-wrenching plot gives you a novel you have to read.

Goodreads summary

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.

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