The Fifth Floor by Julie Oleszek
A coming of age book geared to youths and adults of all ages. It this was classified under Young Adults, I would still certainly have read it because it interests me to stay “real” on issues that touch youths growing up.
Julie Oleszek’s first novel is a book that youths can relate to and any person of any age and especially who has experienced grief. I don’t want to say too much because the trials and tribulations of Anna, who is the ninth child of a family of ten are hers to discover along with the reader throughout this book. I think that is what I loved about this. I did not need to get a clinical analysis of why’s and underlying issues but rather to explore life, suffer, question and discover through Anna’s journey. I laughed when she was giggling and felt dizzy when her brother picked her up; I cried when she was hurt and I sulked when she was ignored. It is clear to me that “feeling ignored” and “neglect” are extreme opposites. Julie paints the picture of a large family and all the hubbub that can go on. I feel overwhelmed yet curious and feel like I am eavesdropping during mealtime. We are nine only during family gatherings at my home, during the holidays, so seeing this three times a day as a daily routine feels totally overwhelming to me. Who gets to eat enough and who feels guilty for wanting a second helping!
Perhaps it is the youth counsellor in me that appreciates “hearing Anna’s own narrative”. Maybe it is just having lived a long life and relating to so many paths Anna has crossed along her journey. I can smell the grass when Anna plays outside and see her world upside down when hanging from the swings. Her narrative is real and touches your heart!
I can’t say more…like the Velveteen Rabbit, the reader falls in love with little Anna and that relationship is cemented throughout the ten years she is growing up.
This book is not just one person’s story about struggling with disordered eating. No unhealthy ways of coping are a one size fits all. Whether it is self-harm, disordered eating or addiction, each person experiences their own unique challenges in ways they can to survive. Anna survives for many years until she learns to “live” and smell the grass again and hear the birds sign.
This book is also about life…death is part of it and grief is a process touching everyone in its unique way and in its unique time. I recommend this book anyone working with youths and teenagers and to try and notice the delicate balancing act a youth is faced with when faced with death; a youth grieves throughout their entire childhood and does not stop at adulthood but many layers that weigh a person is lessened over time. One does not “get over” a loss but goes through this process. Over time, they learn to live and move forward despite their loss.
(c) Cheryl-Lynn Roberts ‘2019/12/07
You can purchase this book at Julie Oleszek’s website or at Amazon.ca, Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk