Thursday, July 2, 2015

Review: "Talking to Ourselves" by Andres Neuman

It is amazing what a 400-page difference between books does for the quality of the shorter one, since Talking to Ourselves, the second novel of Argentinean author Andres Neuman to be translated into English is much better than his vague, forgettable 500 page clunker Traveler of the Century. It still has some parts that rubbed me the wrong way, and overall a feeling of plainness overtakes the narrative, but there is still a lot in this book that makes it worthwhile, and yet so much more clear than in Neuman’s first outing in English. Instead of the long, drawn out story that oversteps its reach, this is a small compact 150 page tale of the anticipation of grief, and how, even when the death and the inevitable is staring us in the face, it still take courage and guts to tell the ones how we really feel about each other. The story of a simple trip taken by a father and son is told in three distinct voices, some better than others. We first meet Lito, the young boy excited to be finally taking a road trip with his dad, Mario in his truck, Pedro. Back at home, the mother, Elena, writes in her journal about the grief she is feeling, which she tries to dull with an affair with a doctor and many, many book. Finally, we listen in on Mario’s dying thoughts, a mixture of fear and acceptance. The Mario sections drag quite a bit, with them clashing with the straightforward stories Lito and Elena are telling. But it is Elena’s story that comes through the most, filled with pain, regret guilt and anger, the path to a new life once Mario finally dies will not be easy. While there are no surprises, and nothing happens except what we know will, it is still a unique meditation on the complexities that form when someone we love dies.

Rating: 4/5

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