lip lit: divine clementine
There are times when I complain about things in my life which, really, don’t warrant complaining about: Australia’s performance at the Olympics, getting out of my shift at work ten minutes late when I’m anxious to get home, the phenomenon that is Fifty Shades of Grey, university assignments. The list goes on. Thankfully, life is filled with constant reminders that, actually, I’ve got it pretty good. Divine Clementine is one of those novels which make you feel ashamed for complaining about all the tiny “problems” in your life, and makes you take a step back and look at the bigger picture.
Hilary S. Kirk’s debut novel is the story of sixteen-year old Clementine Footner. Clementine has witnessed the death of her Aunt Stella, who was not only Clementine’s aunt, but her best friend in the world. Clementine looked up to her aunt more than anyone. They shared dreams and fears, triumphs and failures. They shared everything, or so Clementine thought. She is shattered by Stella’s death, but what really hits Clementine hard is the discovery that Stella never shared one of the most difficult, significant parts of her life with her niece. Clementine is angry, distraught and confused, unable to comprehend that, in reality, Stella wasn’t the person Clementine always thought she was.
Clementine is a wonderful character. She jumps off the page, not trying to keep her emotions internalised, but acting out the perfect angsty teenager and making life difficult for her parents. She refuses help from anyone, even her best friend Theo, and consciously chooses to spiral down a reckless path. Kirk’s writing is charged full of emotion and action, although I felt the novel was a little overwritten in parts, in particular in the dialogue. Some things are better left unsaid, and the amount of dialogue at times took away from the impact of what was actually being said.
But that is a minor tarnish on this novel about conquering grief and learning to live with such a loss. All Clementine ever wanted was to be like Stella, and she’s got to come to terms with the fact that she is her own person and has the ability to simply be herself. The problem is finding out who that is. How can Clementine move past the betrayal and get to the other side? How can she claim her life back, when she isn’t even sure what her life should be?
Questions of love reverberate throughout the novel. Is it possible to love someone too much? What does it even mean to love? Is it better to love and lose, or not love at all? Clementine wades her way through these scenarios, while she deliberately drowns beneath her parents’ love for her, despite their understanding of what she’s going through. Clementine wants, and needs, time to herself to figure out this out by herself.
In order to forgive Stella, Clementine needs to understand. While she rejects the support of her family at first, it is through her family’s support that she starts to find her way again. Kirk’s novel is really ambitious. There are a plethora of different themes and threads woven together in this book, and she manages to explore each and every one without casting anything aside as less important than anything else. This is perhaps one of the reasons why the novel felt overwritten at times – there is so much going on, that it takes a bit to get it all on the page. Even so, each thread is carefully sewn together with every other thread in the novel, stitching together each step Clementine takes on her journey.
Divine Clementine delicately navigates the tumultuous waters of grief, and at no point does Kirk attempt to sugar coat or romanticise the realities of moving past the death of a close friend or family member. She takes the reader along on Clementine’s journey to reclaim her life. Clementine is not the perfect teenager, and never tries to be. As the reader is reminded to reflect on the bigger picture in their own lives, so Clementine learns that nothing in life is black and white. Once you’ve jumped on Clementine’s rollercoaster ride with her, you don’t want to jump off until you’ve ridden the ride to the end with her. Ultimately, Divine Clementine is a coming-of age story about learning to let go and live again.
Divine Clementine, Random House