Study Guide

A Mango-Shaped Space Mortality

By Wendy Mass

Mortality

Prologue

Today was the first morning that Mango's death didn't crush me the second I opened my eyes. It actually waited until I had turned off the alarm and pushed down my covers. Dad said that any progress is a good thing, but I still don't see the purple spirals that I used to see when my alarm went off. I admit it—I miss those purple spirals. (15.85)

Poor Mia has a hard time getting back to normal after Mango dies. It's not as simple as burying her cat and moving on; she feels his loss every single time she wakes up. It hits her like a ton of bricks because she's so used to him being around. She shows us all of the ups and downs of losing someone.

Chapter 1

Each year on Jenna's birthday, my mother sends her one of the packages in the mail. One of these years, the gifts are going to run out and that will be a very sad birthday indeed. (1.17)

Sigh. We think it's just about the sweetest thing ever that Jenna's mom went to all the trouble of writing her notes and buying her gifts so her daughter could have them long after she dies. It makes Mia realize just how lucky she is to have both of her parents around to give her their gifts and advice… even if they bug her sometimes.

We're not a very religious family, but where death is concerned, it pays to be open-minded. I try not to think about death too much. I'm not good with endings. They make me too sad. (1.22)

Death is hard to deal with, no matter what you believe—like Mia says, it's the end of an era. She has to overcome her grandpa's death, and it's tough since she was really close to the guy. It makes it better that he's still around in Mango (she believes), but it's still hard for her.

Chapter 2

The whole family was standing around the grave, crying and holding hands, offering Grandpa up to heaven. Living in the country, we're used to offering small animals up to heaven, but then it's usually only Zack who's crying over the skunk or possum. (2.3)

Since Mia's family deals with death a lot, they come up with a way of paying tribute to people who have died. Sure, some of them (ahem, Zack) take it to heart more than others, but they all agree it's important to acknowledge death in a memorable way in order to heal from the loss.

Chapter 7

The only really traumatic thing that I've been through is Grandpa's death. But I don't remember anything changing with my colors. Maybe it wasn't as traumatic as it could have been because I knew I still had a part of Grandpa in Mango. (7.22)

When Mia finds out that trauma is bad for synesthetes and hinders their colors, she rethinks her grandpa's death. In her mind, he's still around in Mango, so it makes it a lot easier to deal with the grief of losing him.

Chapter 8

I'VE ONLY JUST LEARNED THAT MY COLORS DON'T MEAN I'M CRAZY AND THAT I DON'T HAVE SOME AWFUL DISEASE. I'M LEARNING MORE ABOUT IT FROM DR. JERRY WEISS AT THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO, AND IT'S KINDA COOL. (8.19)

We find it interesting that Mia assumes she's dying because of her colors. Sure, it's rare, but she's had it for so long that we wouldn't think there's anything super wrong with her. Still, this is another way mortality is woven through the text.

Chapter 13

Time has stopped. The only things that exist in the world are me, my father, and Mango. The tears are streaming down my face now and making Mango's fur wet. My father tips Mango's head back and breathes into his mouth and nose. […] After a minute of this Dad looks up at me, his face ashen, and shakes his head. (13.69)

Mango dies and Mia is completely distraught; she doesn't know how to keep on living without her cat and grandpa. Props to her dad for trying to give the cat CPR, though.

Chapter 15
Dr. Jerry Weiss

"Your colors will return, Mia. I promise. And you'll feel three-dimensional again. Try doing something creative to jump-start your brain a little. You told me you like to paint; why don't you try that?" (15.76)

After Mango dies, Mia is afraid she'll never see color again. She gets used to shapes and colors not floating around in the air, but she misses it. It's like she's not really herself without those colors. Luckily, Dr. Jerry assures her the colors will return… and he's right.

Mr. and Mrs. Winchell (Mia's Parents)

"I know many of us are blaming ourselves for what happened, and we need to talk this out because it's very hurtful. We're all grieving in our own way, and nobody has the right to tell anyone else what to feel." (15.4)

Here Mia's dad makes a grand speech about guilt and blame for Mango's death. Sometimes, it's easy to confuse grief with fault. Mia does this, and Zack does, too, but their dad points out that they aren't to blame for Mango dying. He was sick and died, that's all that happened.

"I think we're almost ready to put the stuff away now," Roger says, giving the loose string one last firm tug. "It gets easier, Mia—missing them and feeling guilty and helpless that you couldn't save them. Oscar kind of settled into my memory, and I take him with me. Does that make sense?" (15.51)

Roger helps Mia out by sharing his own story of losing a pet. For him, his dog was like a brother. Even though other people might not understand, Mia certainly does. She loved Mango like family, so it means a lot to her when Roger shares his own experience with loss. It's one of the first times she's able to smile since Mango died.

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