I received an advanced review copy of this title from the publisher through Netgalley.
The blurb that describes this book on sites like Goodreads and Amazon really sells the book short. One gets the impression that this is a light, summer beach read, a book categorized as “chick-lit.” This particular classification of genre, “chick-lit” has always made me uncomfortable. It seems to imply, at least in my mind, that females read these lighter, less serious books, ones meant for the beach or for times when ones attention is not fully given because the children are running around. This genre also seems to imply a certain amount of gratuitous sex. But Blanca’s story about the death of her mother and her very complicated love life are much more complex than to be classified as “chick-lit.”
The entire book is written as a letter from the main character, Blanca, to her mother who has just passed away. Blanca is forty years-old, twice divorced and has one son with each ex-husband. The death of her mother has caused her to not only feel grief, but also to experience a deep sense of loneliness. Even though Blanca is constantly surrounded by loved ones, her children, her friends, her ex-husbands, a sense of loneliness pervades every scene in the book. We get the feeling that her relationship with her mother, right up to her dying days, was very complicated.
Blanca decides to leave Barcelona for a summer seaside vacation to Cadaqués where her mother’s home is. Even though she is consumed by sadness, the memories of childhood summers in Cadaqués and being surrounded by her mother’s things are a comfort to Blanca. When she arrives at her mother’s house, the first item she encounters is a jacket that her mother always wore. She is not sure what she should do with it, but by the end of the novel she brings it to the dry cleaners which act is symbolic of finally letting go of her grief.
Another theme that pervades the book is intimacy, both sexual and emotional. After her mother’s death, Blanca craves physical affection and begins having sex with Oscar, one of her ex-husbands. But she recognizes that this is a temporary situation to ease her sorrow. Blanca is also having an illicit affair with a married man who also shows up in Cadaqués. Her mother’s death makes her reevaluate all of the intimate relationships in her life and Blanca comes to the realization that this affair is not satisfying her emotional needs. One of the best parts of the book is when she blurts out to the man with whom she is having the affair that they should break it off. I saw this as Blanca finally coming out of her fog of grief, asserting her independence, and recognizing her self-worth.
In sum, this book brings up important issues about grief and how we deal with the loss of an important role-model in our lives. Blanca comes to understand that her friends and her family are her true support system and these relationships will help her get over the loss of her mother. As the plot of the book progressed, I became more invested not only in Blanca’s story, but also in the other lively characters in the book. Her two best friends, her sons, and her ex-husbands, all of whom have very different personalities, made up a very amusing cast of characters. I would recommend taking this book to the beach, but you will need to give it your undivided attention to fully appreciate the deeper messages about dealing with loss.
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