When her mother is knocked down and killed by a London bus, fifteen-year-old Melon Fouraki is left with no family worth mentioning. Her mother, Maria, never did introduce Melon to a 'living, breathing' father. The indomitable Auntie Aphrodite, meanwhile, is hundreds of miles away on a farm in Crete, and is unlikely to be jumping on a plane and coming to East Finchley anytime soon. But at least Melon has 'The Story'. 'The Story' is the Fourakis family fairytale. A story is something. RED INK is a powerful coming-of-age tale about superstition, denial and family myth.
Where do I start? With the tears that I shed or the smiles I cracked? To some degree, my own recent experiences influenced the way I read Red Ink.
About Red Ink
With no family contact left behind, all Melon has is her mother’s story. She knows that even though she was born and raised in London, her original roots lie in Crete. Her whole identity and existence has depended on that story. It is her knowledge of it that allows her to live day by day after her mother’s death. As she pieces the story together again for herself, her path of discovery leads her back to Crete and through the streets of London. She discovers things she didn’t know and in the process also alters the way that she views herself.
I Could Relate
I too lost someone dear to me recently, so I related well on that level. The chapters in this book jumped back and forth in time, revolving around the day Melon’s mother, Maria, died. For some readers, this may be confusing. However, I think that this was a good reflection on the state of Melon’s mind. When someone grieves, time fails to pass in chronological order. Memories will jump out as and when. Even day-to-day life doesn’t seem to occur in order anymore. Writing that way then was clever.
Prominent Adult Figure
It was also refreshing that an adult figure featured prominently in Melon’s life. She was after all, only fifteen. Paul, her late mother’s boyfriend, took over custody of her and took care of her in the aftermath. Their relationship was delicate but also had the familiarity of two people living together. No matter how much Melon turned away from people, Paul’s own grief was very evident throughout the pages. Both Melon and Paul were well-built characters and it made sense that even though they weren’t related, he would become a father-figure in her life.
Some Unanswered Questions
One thing I would’ve liked to be a little clearer was why Melon’s best friend, Chick, withdrew from her. Even though Melon stayed with Chick’s family for a while after Maria’s death, Chick became distant. Then again, the book is written from Melon’s point of view, so things like that, as in life, sometimes simply remain a mystery.
Truth & Perspectives
Besides dealing with death, Melon also had to deal with truth and lies. I liked the approach to truth taken here. Issues on why anyone would resort to lies as well as when truth matters less than perspectives were weaved into the plot, so there definitely were things for the reader to think about too. Melon’s occasional reflective tone also drove me to tears when it mirrored my own thoughts during my grieving period, while also giving me reasons to smile.