Love in Bloom: The Survival Kit by Donna Freitas
After Rose’s mom dies of cancer, Rose finds one of her mother’s famous Survival Kits in a closet. Her kit includes an iPod, a picture of peonies, a crystal heart, a paper star, a box of crayons, and a miniature kite. Unfortunately, some music, art supplies, and pictures aren’t going to work any magic themselves. Rose has to use these clues to move on in a year of “firsts” without her mom.
With little interest in any of her former activities, Rose fills her time trying to take care of her alcoholic father and her mom’s old garden, but struggles to maintain relationships with her friends and boyfriend. Everything Rose does is a painful reminder that her mom can’t be there to share in her experiences. Yet, each piece in the Survival Kit brings Rose back to Will, a shy, reserved hockey player who had worked in her family’s gardens for years, and who experienced a tragic loss of his own. The Survival Kit didn’t include anything about romance, but maybe Will is the missing piece Rose needs to put her life back together.
Donna Freitas’ The Survival Kit is a beautiful book about grieving and letting go that is sure to make you shed a few tears. The book is full of realistic and likable characters, like Rose’s supportive best friend Krupa and tough love Grandma Madison, as well as a complex father and brother who are grieving alongside Rose.
The Survival Kit is multi-layered. Though Rose has trouble listening to music without her mom, her story is enhanced by chapter titles that make up a playlist for her year. Further, the many references to the items in Rose’s Survival Kit beg the question: What would you put in Survival Kits for your own friends and family?
Freitas’ latest work is well worth reading, despite (or perhaps because of) the emotional toll it takes. Bearing many similarities to Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour, The Survival Kit is cathartic, romantic, and well-crafted.