book review: On Pointe by Lori Ann Grover

Since we had a ballet themed book last time I happened to read another one so decided to review that next. Have learned more about ballet than I ever thought I would! Actually knew nothing about it so yeah.

On Pointe centers on seventeen year old Clare. Her passion is ballet. She has studied all her life and has her eyes and heart set on a spot at city dance company. There are others in her group that are on the fringes of her life. The one she’s closest to Rosilla is using bulimia to “lose weight.” This concerns Clare but she doesn’t know what to do and due to the pressure of things even tries to make herself throw up once but she can’t.

Others in the group are Willow,(who’s mom is a typical stage mom), and a couple of guys. The guys seem to be less uptight than the girls. However everyone is poised for this audition. Clases are brutal physically. They wear these really weird awfull shoes so they can dance on pointe you know do all these spins and things. They give your feet blisters and make them bleed and it’s painful to do it. Ouch! At least when I sang it didn’t physically hurt.

Anyway leading up to the audition other things are on Clare’s mind. She’s staying with her grandfather who she has a pretty good relationship with. He’s very religious which she doesn’t really understand why that’s important, he’s slightly annoying to her as he keeps saying she’s “a dancer” as in a dancer already and doesn’t need the city company troupe to prove that. She does spend time with him but mostly her life is class and more class. She enjoys their walks and hearing about her grampa used to do ske races and even now skes though he is elderly. He seems a really kind grounded easygoing sort of man.

Her parent’s own a bookstore and are headed to a convention at the audition time. He mother every chance she gets says that this getting into the company is “our dream” (hers and Clare’s, or just hers?) this question starts to bu her as she physically and emotionally is exhausted by everything.

The audition comes. She dances her best and the instructor says she is qualified for the company. However she is not able to join because she is too tall. Apparently they have to line up like perfectly and everyone has to look the same. The teacher were hoping some other taller girls were coming to audition but they didn’t. This devastates Clare and upone coming home she faints and is taken to the hospital.

Her parent’s arrive and her mother is intent on discussing every little detail of the audition how Clare felt ETC. More to do with her own feelings than Clare’s. Her mother is annoying in her clinginess with her daughter literally having no concept of where she ends and her daughter begins. Finally Clare is brave enough and self aware enough to stand up to her mother to get angry that it isn’t her mother who has worked herself into this condition with scarred feet it’s her. Her mother doesn’t understand at first, and I question if even by the end of the book she even gets it. But Clare keeps pressing the point that this is not about her mother it’s about her. Her mother has no sense of self or self-esteem. She doesn’t know who she is without this thing with Clare’s dancing and is very controlling. I feel sorry for Clare and her father and the Grampa all who have her mom’s number and try mostly to no avail to get her mom to lighten up.

Clare is deciding whether to go home with her parents or stay with her grandfather. She was offered to go to the adult ballet class. A class more for fun than anything certainly not competivive which almost gives her mom a heart attack that Clare would even think of wanting to do something like that.

Before that drama can go any further tragedy strikes. Her grandfather suddenly has a stroke and is paralyzed on his left side. And also is left unable to speak beyond grunting. He can move the right side of his body smile and that’s about all. The family take this very hard. The mother again is quite selfish often talking like all this is such a burden for her, not disguising this at all. It’s like OMG this woman needs major therapy! I think she has some sort of personality disorder or something.

So they get a caregiver Mabel. Mabel is just what this family needs. A fat woman (her description) proud of her body, totally energetic and fun loving. Clare takes to her instantly as does her grandfather. They discover that though her grandfather can only grunt and for some reason no speech therapy is mentioned only physical, he can hold and play the harmonica with his good hand. Music brings him to life. As does his prayer group visiting and religion in general. Mabel is extremely musical she sang professionally but stopped because the pressure was too much. She now “sings for herself.” This concept of “dancing for herself” is totally new to Clare. She is afraid of it and hopeful at the same time. When one day the three go on a hike Mabel coaxes Clare to dance not knowing she had taken ballet. She was more than impressed by the fancy t twirls and footwork. Mabel reinforces that Clare is a dancer and it doesn’t matter if she was too tall for the company she is in her heart a dancer.

Clare goes to and enjoys the adult class. She displays her pointe shoes proudly but with a sense of that chapter finished in her life. Now she can follow her passion for dance more gently, more for the pure joy it brings her.

I give her a lot of credit for being as insightful and reflective and emotionally stable is she is. Her mother seems quite childish never really getting her daughter and honestly smothering her. I like the themes of identity, separating parent from child at a critical age. Also about following your passion in a way that’s best for you not dictated by someone outside yourself. The subject of caring for someone with a stroke and how a family adjusts to something so life changing is important. Though I wish speech therapy would have been applied or other forms of communication. The power of music is important and actual music therapy is used with stroke victems so this is true to life.

I still say I wouldn’t recommend those shoes!

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