Title: A Tiny Upward Shove
Author: Melissa Chadburn
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication Date: April 12, 2022
Genre: Literary Fiction
A Tiny Upward Shove is inspired by Melissa Chadburn’s Filipino heritage and its folklore, as it traces the too-short life of a young, cast-off woman transformed by death into an agent of justice—or mercy.
Marina Salles’s life does not end the day she wakes up dead.
Instead, in the course of a moment, she is transformed into the stuff of myth, the stuff of her grandmother’s old Filipino stories—an aswang, a creature of mystery and vengeance. She spent her time on earth on the margins; shot like a pinball through a childhood of loss, she was a veteran of Child Protective Services and a survivor, but always reacting, watching from a distance, understanding very little of her own life, let alone the lives of others. Death brings her into the hearts and minds of those she has known—even her killer—as she accesses their memories and sees anew the meaning of her own. In her nine days as an aswang, while she considers whether to exact vengeance on her killer, she also traces back, finally able to see what led these two lost souls to a crushingly inevitable conclusion.
In A Tiny Upward Shove, the debut novelist Melissa Chadburn charts the heartbreaking journeys of two of society’s castoffs as they make their way to each other and their roles as criminal and victim. What does it mean to be on the brink? When are those moments that change not only our lives but our very selves? And how, in this impossible world, full of cruelty and negligence, can we rouse ourselves toward mercy?
Why This Book
A Tiny Upward Shove is not an easy book to read, and it’s even more heartbreaking because it’s about a young woman and her childhood as one of those kids who slipped through the cracks. It opens with Marina’s murder as a young woman and then the story backtracks all the way to Marina’s childhood.
Most of A Tiny Upward Shove is about Marina’s life in the clutches of Child Protective Services. While living with other young girls who have nowhere else to go, she forms tenuous friendships and a tough exterior. Her life isn’t easy, and it isn’t easy to read about, but it details the lives of the lost children, of the children few think about once they’ve been taken away. It’s heartbreaking what these children endured, and even more terrible when one learns there’s nothing more left for them once they age out of the system. So I’ve chosen this book not only because it feature’s Marina’s childhood, but because it also puts a spotlight on the children who fall through the cracks.
My review: “But A Tiny Upward Shove isn’t just about Marina, or Marina and Alex. It’s about the people who have slipped through the cracks. It reveals a broken system, one that hurts people and keeps them down even if they have the spark in them to try to survive. It makes the children tough, makes them grow up too fast”
Leah’s Books gave this 2 stars, saying “This was not an easy read, by any means, and while I loved how the story ended, I can’t exactly say that I enjoyed the journey”
Chicago Review of Books said this “skillfully folds a character-centered story about a biracial young woman’s fate into the real-life crimes of a Canadian serial killer. In creating a fictional character within a factual scenario, there is no ethically questionable retelling of a victim’s reality, but rather an acknowledgement of missing stories”
Bookstalkerblog said “This is exposure, of life in the underground, which exists outside the bubble so many of us live in. It is about children who never get to live in the light, who if lucky enough to survive into adulthood at all are forced to the streets, walking into the belly of the beast. It is also about women who put their faith in bad men. Mother’s who severely neglect their children”
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