The Mackee’s life changed forever after the death of youngest son, Joe, in the 2005 London underground bombing. Their world was suddenly segregated into ‘before London’ and ‘after London’ and the fracture of past and present as the book observes the ripple effect that unrestrained grief has on families and relationships. The book is set in 2007 and the Mackees are still reeling after Joe’s death; but as the tragedy that tore the Mackee’s apart, old heartbreak is bringing them back together.
Grief is like poison, slowly moving through your system breaking all of your defences with time. It can either destroy you --or focus you. You can decide a relationship was all for nothing if it had to end in death, or you can realise that every moment of it had more meaning than you dared to recognise at the time; just taking for granted the love and laughter of each day, and didn't allow yourself to consider the sacredness of it. The Pipers Son reveals to its audience how unrestrained grief is dealt with in different ways, and its dangerous impact on relationships. As Lucia quotes on pg. 239 -“Not being able to offer my best friend any comfort, doesn’t just stress or devastate me, it kills me. That’s why I need a counsellor.” It is evident that Lucia and Georgie’s friendship was tested to its limits as well as the relationship between Tom and his friends, as they isolated themselves. The ‘world’s most enviable marriage’ between Dom and Jacinta, as well as the relationship between Sam and Georgie, and Tom and Tara also suffered the consequence of unrestrained grief. But the saddest of them all, is the relationship between Dom and Tom. Dom and Tom were inseparable for most of Tom’s childhood, and when Dom abandoned him, the betrayal was felt deep. This is made evident on Pg. 117 where it says “Tom’s hero fell of a pedestal went too high and he smashed all over the place.” It is undeniable how unrestrained grief has a dangerous effect on relationships in The Pipers Son.
Grief is powerful and inevitable. It occurs to all of us. It can be disabling. It can feel like a tsunami – an unimaginably powerful force overtaking and smothering every other aspect of… reality. Reality is a frightening concept; especially after a loved one dies. After the death of Joe, Tom escapes quietly into a numbed state of drug and alcohol use to cope and escape reality; whereas Tom's father completely falls off the wagon and seeks comfort at the bottom of a bottle. Tom’s grief deeply affected his behaviour. In the beginning, he has a self-destructive attitude towards life; he indulges in drugs, alcohol and mindless sex. Music is also an escape for him. ‘’The string slices into the skin of his fingers… the beat is fast… his joints are aching… but nothing’s going to stop Tom. He’s aiming for oblivion’’. Marchetta uses alliteration (string, slices, skin) in this quote to emphasise the pain Tom feels. ‘’no matter how tough the callus, it tears’’. He is a human callus, roughened by the constant pain. He wants to be oblivious so he doesn’t need to endure the pain in his life, so like a callus in your skin, he is numb. Both Dom and Tom closed themselves off from the world; their family, their friends, and the woman they loved. This is The Pipers Son revealing the dangerous power of