Middle Grade on Monday: A Glasshouse of Stars – Shirley Marr

Meixing Lim and her family have arrived at the New House in the New Land, inherited from First Uncle who died tragically and unexpectedly while picking oranges in the backyard. Everything is vast and unknown to Meixing and not in a good way, including the house she has dubbed Big Scary. She is embarrassed by the second-hand shoes given to her by the kind neighbours, has trouble understanding the language at school, and with fitting in and making new friends. Her solace is a glasshouse in the garden that inexplicably holds the sun and the moon and all the secrets of her memory and imagination.

Her fragile universe is rocked when tragedy strikes and Ma Ma refuses to face the world outside. Meixing finds herself trapped within the shrinking walls of Big Scary. Her parents said this would be a better life for them all, but it feels like the worst and most heart-breaking experience of Meixing’s entire existence. Surviving will take all the resilience and inner belief of this brave girl to turn their world around.

A Glasshouse of Stars is based on the real childhood experiences of the author, brushed with a light touch of magic realism.

I am very sorry to say that this book didn’t work for me, and I DNF’ed it at 35%.

My main problem lay with the characters. We follow a young girl and her parents as they migrate to Australia. I realize the author based this on her own experience, so it pains me to say that I found the characters really frustrating and annoying. I do have to mention that my husband is also an immigrant (from Africa, to Europe), and his experience has been very different. Yes, my presence and time will be part of that. But his attitude was also very different from this family which I feel has made it a lot easier for him.

I don’t really understand why this family decided to move to a different country, as they don’t seem to make any effort to make it work. I guess it was to give their daughter and unborn child a better life…. so then I really don’t understand why the mother refuses to see a doctor when the pregnancy is clearly not going as it should. They also demand straight A’s from our 7yr old girl, but at no point give her a chance or even remotely help her to get settled into her new environment. I also found it really annoying how our main character would make such a problem in her head about the fact that she was wearing BOY’S SHOES!!! Who cares? (sorry, I get really annoyed when people make a Massive deal about wearing second hand clothes).

Mom completely relies on their also Asian neighbour to provide them with food and cooking, for weeks. Dad complains about the fact that he has to do manual labour (instead of being happy that he managed to even get a job within a week of being in the country and not speaking the language).

All of this is then combined with the fact that the book is written in second person. You are the 7yr old girl who is left to deal with it all on her own. And all I could think was ‘no, I would never do/think that’. ‘no, my family would never make victims of themselves so much’.

And then a traumatic event happens. I cry really easy. And I felt absolutely nothing here (apart from minor hate towards the mother). So I decided it was enough for me. I have to say that the magical realism aspects in this book were interesting, but not nearly enough for me to keep going.

I do appreciate that this is an important own-voices story that can be incredibly helpful to kids with a migration background, and inform everyone else about the experience. But I couldn’t relate it to the experience me and the Husband are having regarding it. By the time he will get his Dutch passport, it will have taken us 10 years of struggle to fulfill all the requirements, pass the exams and get all the paperwork sorted. Knowing how much effort he has to put into this, I couldn’t deal with these parents who mainly just felt sorry for themselves.

5 thoughts on “Middle Grade on Monday: A Glasshouse of Stars – Shirley Marr

  1. It’s unfortunate that this book didn’t work for you. I have to wonder how much of the parents’ attitude is based on what the author remembers of her own parents attitude—which, if they were anything like my parents, would have tried to keep all the worst parts of the situation from their kids to protect them. That kind of action could make parents come across as one dimensional to their kids. This might be a case where it draws too closely from a personal lived experience.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That may be case for sure. She overhears her parents fight about money ones. But overall we feel they are struggling because they pull themselves back from her. No hugs in the morning like before, a constant pushing to do well in school to get a better future, and when the traumatic event happens they lock themselves away in their room and push our mc away when she really needs to be held. So it does make sense that that is how the author remembers it, while if truly fictional it would be more nuanced.


      1. Yeah, from how you describe it that sounds a little too real. I’m sad that the author had to go through that, and hopefully it will help readers who might be young enough to not know what’s going on with their parents.

        Liked by 1 person

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