Author: Jenny Torres Sanchez
Frenchie Garcia is stuck in a rut. With graduation in the rear-view mirror, it’s time for Frenchie to figure out her future. The problem is, she can’t seem to find the motivation. Ever since her classmate Andy Cooper died, Frenchie’s thoughts have revolved more and more around death. What no one knows is that Andy spent his last night with Frenchie and what she thought was the beginning of something ended up being his final goodbye to the world. Now Frenchie must find a way to accept what happened if she has a chance of moving on.
“I feel that steady beat in my head, Em. I march through my days like those mourners, but I feel like I’m in that box, too. There’s a funeral in my brain. How do I make it stop?”
Jenny Torres Sanchez’s Death, Dickinson, and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia deserves a lot more credit and attention than it’s been given. I’ve been making an effort to seek out more Latina authors and when I came across this one, I had to read it. Frenchie has been pulling away from her friends for months, seeking refuge at the cemetery down the road where she holds imaginary conversations with Emily Dickinson. While not the resting place of the real Emily Dickinson, her namesake feels pretty close enough. Drawn to the poet because her poetry often deals with death, Frenchie is prone to some pretty morbid thoughts herself and it’s quite clear she’s never dealt with the suicide of the boy she once liked. She’s cynical, moody, and likely to scowl at any given moment, which actually makes her incredibly relatable. Her standoffish and stubborn attitude toward those pushing her to become the girl she once was makes sense only to the reader who begins to understand how Frenchie’s and Andy’s lives intersect as the story moves forward.
I loved the way this novel was structured, weaving together Frenchie’s present with the night she spent with Andy. Frenchie deals with issues of guilt, struggles with an answer to Andy’s suicide, and the muddiness that has become her own thoughts. A part of her feels responsible for his death and with no one to talk to, she’s left drowning in this unhealthy mindset. Her relationships have suffered, most notable is her friendship with her best friend Joel. She’s always been able to count on him, but when she needed him most, he wasn’t there and the chasm between the two keeps growing as his relationship with his girlfriend grows more serious. While her friends prepare to embark on new adventures, Frenchie looks ahead and sees a dead end and in many ways hopes for it.
Death, Dickinson, and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia is both tragic as well as cathartic, dark with a glimmer of hope. It’s a novel I highly recommend to anyone interested in exploring issues of death, guilt, and of course, Emily Dickinson.