Author: Kimberly McCreight
Publisher: Harper 2013
Genre: Literature/Women’s Fiction
Format: Audiobook Narrated by Khristine Hvam
Kate is a junior partner in a big New York law firm. She is always under a lot of pressure and feels she must work long, long hours. Kate is also a single mom to Amelia, a smart, level-headed teenager.
Caring for Amelia hadn’t been a problem for Kate because she’d always had a nanny. But, now that Amelia is fifteen, she no longer wants a babysitter. This means Amelia is home alone for long periods of time and, of course, Kate worries more. Mother and daughter have a good relationship. There is love and mutual respect.
One day, while at work, Kate receives a call from the private school Amelia attends, asking her to come immediately to the school. When she arrives she is told that Amelia has committed suicide. The only possible explanation is that Amelia was suspended for plagiarizing on an English paper and must have been upset about it.
Kate is shocked and devastated, and finds it hard to believe. The police investigate, but declare it a suicide. As Kate works through her grief, she tries to understand what was happening in Amelia’s life prior to her death. There is so much of Amelia’s life written down on Twitter, Facebook, emails, Instagram, and all the other modes of modern communication. Kat e asks a computer genius at her law firm to help her recover all of it, even the deleted messages.
As Kate sets about to “reconstruct” Amelia’s life, she receives an anonymous text saying Amelia did not jump. This, and some of the other things she uncovers, sends Kate back to the police. She is assigned a more sympathetic detective who is persuaded to help Kate find the truth.
Reconstructing Amlia was a fascinating tale in many ways. The mystery concerning how of Amelia’s death was one thing. The why was even more intriguing. The secret girl’s club and their hateful hazing and bullying was a big factor. Amelia’s self-centered best (and only) friend was also to be considered. But there was more than that. The teachers, headmaster, counselor, and parents all contributed to the problems in Amelia’s life.
For me, a sub-theme of the novel was the enormous amount of the story that could be reconstructed from Amelia’s electronics. The amount of detail that has become available within the last decade or so is amazing to me. Because this is so new to us we don’t really know what to make of it. Is it a good thing or a bad thing? I think we are still working to understand it all. As time goes by, I’m sure we’ll develop sane ways to deal with it.
This was a book club read. Almost all of the club members are mothers and grandmothers. Our discussion was long and lively. Nearly everyone had personal stories to share about similar situations with grandchildren, electronics and experiences with bullying.
We spent a good deal of time talking about Kate, the mother. We understood her feelings of guilt and helplessness. I will tell you that one lone member of the group thought this “whole mess” (with modern teenagers) is the fault of mothers who work outside the home. That’s when the rest of the group really got “lively.” Rest assured — the fight for women’s equality is still going strong in northern California!
Overall, Reconstructing Amelia is an excellent book for book clubs as well as the reader who wants to look at the invasion of electronic gadgets into our personal lives. On top of that, it was a good, well-written story.