Before I write this review, let me make one thing absolutely crystal clear: I am not a fan of fiction. In childhood, I couldn’t get enough of The Babysitters Club or Sweet Valley High, but in college I discovered an entirely new realm of literature: non-fiction. Since then, I literally devour book after book of any form of non-fiction, but I have steered clear of fiction for a couple of reasons: one is that I don’t really have the time to invest in reading a tale about someone and something that never happened, and two is that most modern fiction is full of lewd, crude, and unnecessary material that just completely turns my mind and heart in the opposite direction.
Erin Cupp’s new book, Don’t You Forget About Me, caught me completely off guard. I purchased it initially, because the title was intriguing and reminiscent of warm memories of my childhood; the 1980s were golden years to me because of my naivete and capricious nature at the time. When I realized it was fiction, I thought, What the heck. I’ll give it a chance.
I’m glad I did.
Don’t You Forget About Me is what I would consider cultural fiction, its main plot a mystery but with a supporting romantic theme; Cupp writes in a succinct clarity that is unparalleled to most modern “big name” fiction writers these days. She is not only capable of portraying a very realistic image of modern Pennsylvania (tomato pie, anyone?) with a retrospective of the same setting in the 1980s, but her use of time is also impeccable and flawless. Her character development of Mary Catherine, Gene, and Stasi are so lifelike that I found myself believing I actually knew them, and what’s more, I liked them. They were like my friends: quirky, eccentric, not quite fitting in with the “popular” crowd growing up and yet, as adults, they ended up very successful and comfortable with themselves.
Each chapter is titled with a different tune from the 1980s, and each song very appropriately conveyed and encompassed that particular chapter’s development of the plot; in an odd way, this added a touch of nostalgia as I was reading what was otherwise a murder mystery in which Mary Catherine and Gene – long-time friends who were estranged after attending Catholic grade school in rural Pennsylvania – come together after attending their former principal’s funeral to solve some puzzling questions surrounding the principal’s death, as well as the death of one of their elementary classmates many decades prior. These both seem to be connected to the subplot surrounding the mysterious illnesses and deaths of their elementary classmates. Of course, their relationship portrays an intensity and tension that one would desire when learning about two people who have obvious unresolved chemistry between them, but what I love about this story is that it is a wholesome romance. I was relieved when there were no sex scenes or even intimations of sexual contact, and further, I was overjoyed when Gene’s devout Catholic faith influenced how he approached the unresolved questions of the status of his relationship with Mary Catherine.
Don’t You Forget About Me is a refreshing work of literary genius, a genius that is inspired by Cupp’s obvious devout and deeply rooted Catholic faith. Not only is the story well-written (and edited, I might add), but its theme is exemplary as a portrayal of heroic morality in a culture and society that is sympathetic to the widespread use of contraception, loose sexual mores, and otherwise extinct covenanted marriages. Cupp’s characters are relevant but not disconnected to truth, and the consequences of contraceptive use becomes a grave reality that is explored with raw honesty enveloped in charity. What makes her characters so amiable is the raw emotion that is so often depicted with necessary intensity that is mingled with soul searching and spiritual transformation; in many ways, her characters represent all of humanity, in that we all must wrestle from time to time with our weaknesses and sins, facing ourselves as our souls are confronted with truth.
Thanks to Cupp, there are various options of literature to satiate the appetite of avid fiction readers, those who love a good murder mystery, and those who cherish a sweet and endearing romantic love – but without the violence, wickedness, and filth that so often is expected in the media these days. For those who appreciate truth, beauty, and goodness, Don’t You Forget About Me is a must-read.
Copyright 2014 Jeannie Ewing