STARRED REVIEW
November 15, 2022

The 9:09 Project

In The 9:09 Project, author Mark H. Parsons draws on personal experience to craft a strikingly honest depiction of loss, grief and healing.
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Two years after his mother dies of breast cancer, high school junior and amateur photographer Jamison Deever decides to channel his grief into a photography project. At a street corner he could see from his mother’s hospital window, Jamison photographs whoever happens to show up at 9:09 p.m., the exact time at which his mother died. 

Initially, Jamison simply wants to honor his mother’s memory, but when he creates a website and begins uploading his work online, the photos garner attention, both local and national. A popular girl named Kennedy exploits Jamison’s talent in the hope of kickstarting a modeling career, while another girl named Assi, who is dealing with her own loss, butts heads with Jamison in English class. Friendship—and then something more—grows between them. As Jamison’s photography inspires others to embark on their own 9:09 projects, he begins to understand the transformational power of expressing his grief. 

As author Mark H. Parsons was drafting The 9:09 Project, his mother was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, and she died before the book was published. Through Jamison, Parsons offers a strikingly honest and moving depiction of loss, grief and healing. As the novel opens, Jamison is adrift, struggling with the reality that life after the death of a loved one doesn’t come with a road map. Instead, he must find his own path, apart from but alongside his supportive sister, father and friends. 

Parsons’ first-person narration is spare and never weighed down by heavy descriptions, focusing instead on Jamison’s thoughts from moment to moment. This strong internality adds to the novel’s appeal as Jamison undertakes a journey through grief, which, sooner or later, every reader must also experience. Not every teen who has suffered a loss will be ready for the raw emotions Parsons captures here, but when they are, the novel’s honesty will likely be a comfort.

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