The Grief Keeper

The Grief Keeper

This stunning YA debut is a timely and heartfelt speculative narrative about healing, faith, and freedom.Seventeen-year-old Marisol has always dreamed of being American, learning what Americans and the US are like from television and Mrs. Rosen, an elderly expat who had employed Marisol's mother as a maid. When she pictured an American life for herself, she dreamed of a l...

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Title:The Grief Keeper
Author:Alexandra Villasante
Rating:
Edition Language:English

The Grief Keeper Reviews

  • Kerri

    being a crit partner has its benefits...you NEED this book in your life, trust me!

  • Maribel

    Of course I didn't read the final - with a real cover, and with the fantastic new book smell, but I'm dying to! A fantastic and refreshingly new tale that needs to be told today more than ever.

  • Katherine Moore

    I can already say that this will be on my list as one of my top and most impactful reads of the year (and it’s only May). I’ve not read too many books lately that can bring me to shed both happy and sad tears, as well as make me drop my jaw, and cause me to put the book down for moments so I could collect my thoughts. And although the title would suggest that ‘The Grief Keeper’ is filled with sadness, it also brings with it a bright message of love and hope.

    The novel opens with seventeen-year ol

    I can already say that this will be on my list as one of my top and most impactful reads of the year (and it’s only May). I’ve not read too many books lately that can bring me to shed both happy and sad tears, as well as make me drop my jaw, and cause me to put the book down for moments so I could collect my thoughts. And although the title would suggest that ‘The Grief Keeper’ is filled with sadness, it also brings with it a bright message of love and hope.

    The novel opens with seventeen-year old Marisol being interviewed in a federal border detention center, having just crossed into the U.S., after fleeing El Salvador with her younger sister Gabi, afraid for their lives after the death of their brother Pablo. She has dreamed for years for a life in the States, perfecting her English, and getting lost in the imaginary world of her favorite TV show ‘Cedar Hollow.’ When it looks like her asylum request will be denied, and a new and curious opportunity to have it granted arises, Marisol will do just about anything for her and her sister to make that happen. And that’s by becoming a ‘grief keeper.’

    Debut author Alexandra Villasante has written an expertly crafted novel about the complexities of immigration, grief, sexual orientation, PTSD, depression, and, new love. There are even more nuanced topics woven in such as attitudes towards immigrants (legal and otherwise) being hired to do menial jobs in this country, our political climate, and how the LGBTQ community suffers in other countries (ie which would cause a young girl like Marisol to flee her home).

    This story gives so many deep, complex topics to talk and think about but at the core there is this beautiful story about Marisol and Rey (grieving her own brother) who are discovering their relationship with each other, including Marisol who would never have been allowed to explore this part of her back in the country she has fled. Persecution of LGBTQ youth and ‘conversion by rape’ is brought into the spotlight and from this story of family and migration, I was enlightened and educated.

    This is a novel about connections as well as grief, and Villasante sheds light on PTSD, and gives new meaning to the idea of taking someone else’s pain away so they don’t have to suffer. There are serious moral and ethical questions to the procedure that’s used so that Marisol will absorb Rey’s grief and pain (this actually brings quite a futuristic aspect to a very realistic story, which I really liked) and shows the extent that Marisol will go to gain entry to the U.S., and it’s heartbreaking.

    I read this book and I felt so many different emotions, and the very fact that it’s able to envelope immigration criticism, discussion on sexual identity, loss, classism, plus a loving sister relationship, AND a sci-fi twist, make it a VERY special book. I think it belongs on every school and YA library shelf everywhere and I hope many people will pick it up, even if it’s initially because of the insanely gorgeous cover (thanks to Kaethe Butcher and Kelley Brady), and that they end up holding it close to their hearts.

    *Trigger warnings/mentions: sexual assault, suicidal ideation, violence, bombing, PTSD

  • Lata

    . While I thought the book's resolution was a little too positive, considering the anti-immigration sentiment that's so prevalent now, I thought so much of this book was wonderful.

    Marisol and her younger sister Gabby are asylum seekers from El Salvador, staying in a detention centre in the US. Marisol feels very protective of her much more lighthearted sister, and is carrying plenty of grief and worry about their current situation, as well as the situation they're running from. Seizing

    . While I thought the book's resolution was a little too positive, considering the anti-immigration sentiment that's so prevalent now, I thought so much of this book was wonderful.

    Marisol and her younger sister Gabby are asylum seekers from El Salvador, staying in a detention centre in the US. Marisol feels very protective of her much more lighthearted sister, and is carrying plenty of grief and worry about their current situation, as well as the situation they're running from. Seizing an opportunity one day, Marisol and Gabby escape from the centre.

    They're picked up by a woman, Indrani, who gives Marisol a choice: participate in a study of some new technology and maybe they'll be granted asylum. Marisol agrees to the test, knowing that this isn't really a choice. The tech is to be used to help veterans suffering from PTSD; the sufferer and the non-sufferer both wear cuffs (the non-sufferer also has an implant) and the sufferer sends their pain and grief and fear to the non-sufferer.

    Instead of who she thinks she'll be helping, Marisol and Gabby are taken to the home of a young, suicidal woman, with whom Marisol is urged to connect. The two, after a few false starts, begin speaking, and find a common interest in an old Canadian tv series. Eventually Marisol even convinces Ray to wear the cuff corresponding to her own, and Marisol begins her job of assisting Rey deal with her grief and suicidal thoughts by channeling them to her brain.

    Author Alexandra Villasante brings us into the mind of Marisol; she's a resourceful young woman, but is also nursing deep pain from some unexplained experiences in El Salvador. She understands the bind she and her sister are in and makes decisions, knowing fully well that she doesn't have any good options. It's impossible not to be aware that Indrani, a child of immigrants, is complicit in the Marisol's abuse when Indrani coerces Marisol into agreeing to participate in the trial of the new, untested technology. Additionally, Villasante explores a number of other situations through the relationships in the story: income inequality, homophobia, grief, identity, rape, and mental health. At its heart, though, this is a lovely story of Marisol and her sister, and of Marisol and Rey.

  • Christy

    The number of emotions this book made me feel is off the charts.

    1. Angry. Would the US subject immigrants seeking asylum to experimental tests that could harm and re-traumatize them? Yes, this could be a thing.

    2. Relieved. So happy Marisol found Rey.

    3. Angry. Angry that we live in a world where this is so close to reality. We can’t let the concentration camps continue.

  • Lola

    This is a beautifully-written and touching story about two sisters seeking asylum in America to escape death threats. Marisol would protect her younger sister Gabi at all costs so she agrees to become part of an experiment that has as aim to relieve someone from negative feelings by donating them to a recipient (Marisol).

    For a while there, I actually believed something like that might be possible. The author made everything sound so real. Her telling tugged at my heart—she really has a way with

    This is a beautifully-written and touching story about two sisters seeking asylum in America to escape death threats. Marisol would protect her younger sister Gabi at all costs so she agrees to become part of an experiment that has as aim to relieve someone from negative feelings by donating them to a recipient (Marisol).

    For a while there, I actually believed something like that might be possible. The author made everything sound so real. Her telling tugged at my heart—she really has a way with words. Besides, this sounds like something scientists would work to develop. Anything to rid people of their bad feelings. But some feelings must be felt and dealt with in order to understand ourselves and our needs better…

    I also enjoyed Marisol and Gabi’s interactions. I am all for sisterly dynamics and even bickering, especially now that my brother has moved out and I have no sibling left to annoy and be annoyed by. It’s nostalgic for me. You know what else is beautiful, though? The way the LGBTQIA+ theme is developed and the relationship between Marisol and her ‘‘donor.’’ It’s a slow-burn romance that is worth waiting for and easy to believe in.

    This book should be getting much more attention. I would be outraged at its under-the-radar status but I also love discovering hidden gems so you can see my dilemma. Regardless, please read it. You will not regret it.

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  • Elise (TheBookishActress)

    Sisters who make it to America but learn they'll only be accepted if Marisol participates in a human study for PTSD treatment. holy shit. criticism of immigration, sisterly bonds, PTSD, eerie science!? guys I don't know about you but I'm feeling

    SUPER FUCKING HYPED

  • Fanna

    || F/F Romance

    || Immigration criticism

    || PTSD experiment

  • E.

    holy shit, the blurb killed me already. now i'm waiting for this book to come out and do it again

    a story about two sisters, the struggles of 'illegal' immigration, f/f romance, and an experimental study

  • Kelly

    A teen girl and her younger sister are seeking asylum in the US from El Salvador, where their lives are at great risk for numerous reasons

    . When they make it across the border and are held in a detention facility, Marisol's interview goes less well than she suspects and she worries her request will be denied. She uses a break in attention by the guards to run with her sister, where she's picke

    A teen girl and her younger sister are seeking asylum in the US from El Salvador, where their lives are at great risk for numerous reasons

    . When they make it across the border and are held in a detention facility, Marisol's interview goes less well than she suspects and she worries her request will be denied. She uses a break in attention by the guards to run with her sister, where she's picked up by what seems like a nice woman who offers to help her get to New York, where she's to meet a friend of the family who wants to help them.

    The woman, however, informs her she has an offer: she's actually a government employee and there's a new procedure that needs a human test subject. The procedure will remove the traumas from someone suffering and give them to an otherwise healthy individual. Marisol can be the participant, in exchange for her asylum request. Fearing deportation, she agrees.

    There is so much in this tightly written book about love, family, immigration, and race, but the thing that really struck me was what it dove into about our understanding of grief. For Rey, the white girl struggling with grief who is to be the "giver" of grief to Marisol, grief leads to deep depression and PTSD; the assumption by the wealthy family she's part of, as well as the government and scientists, is that grief can just disappear. That it can be poured into someone "less worthy" to make someone feel better. The "less worthy," of course, being a brown girl desperate for freedom. It's an incredible premise and one that isn't far fetched, despite seeming like it. More, well, grief is a feeling. It's an experience. And we ALL have it in some capacity. It can't be shoved away. It has to be felt and experienced. It demands attention because it's a big deal. Here, though, teen girls aren't allowed to have it. More specifically, white teen girls from wealthy families.

    Marisol, though, can. And she does. And it's here when we discover how deeply flawed this program is.

    There is a queer romance here that's lovely and powerful, and the relationship between Marisol and Gabi, her little sister, is fabulous. I love Marisol's passion for language and learning new languages, as well as how she learns about things like idioms in English. It's charming without ever being demeaning.

    Fear is a driver for Marisol, and that shines through in her complicity with the experiment . . . as well as why she hides a huge part of herself until she's finally able to share it.

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