Lola Jaye's debut novel confronts grief and the notion of continuing bonds with the deceased in a fresh voice.
Opening in 1990, seven years after the death of her young father, Lois Bates is at her mom's wedding to "some prick she met down the bingo." Lois is a typical twelve-year-old who receives an unexpected and atypical gift: "The Manual" her dying father wrote for her projecting the kind of advice he would have liked to have given her face-to-face as she grew up.
His instructions are clear: read each entry on your birthday from age 12-30; don't peep ahead; please flip back through past entries.
Through the course of the entries Lois learns a lot about her father's adolescence and young adulthood as he projects that his own preoccupations (like a first kiss, burgeoning sexuality, the job interview) will be hers as well. By having access to her father's narrative voice, Lois feels his presence all the more palpably in her life. His words begin to fill the void he created between them when he died when Lois was only five, an age when there "is the strange luxury of not recalling the actual moment it happened...the realization that the man who'd read me stories at night, kissed me good night, every night, was no longer breathing in the same air as me."
Lois is a plucky protagonist and it's a bit dreamy to snoop over her shoulder in By The Time You Read This.