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Monday, December 31, 2012

Just Toss the Ashes / Gracias por la muerte by Marta Merajver-Kurlat

This author has a gift for storytelling that draws the reader in, despite the main character being dead on the first page. Sylvia is definitely the main character, and has a strong presence in her absence. It becomes clear that Sylvia felt alone in the world, unable to connect with anyone in a way that meaningful for her. The reader learns all about her through the people she left behind. She writes a suicide note and addresses it to her ex-husband and son, from who she also feels fundamentally distant. These two men have to piece together some meaning for their relationships with Sylvia, but as they go about the business of disposing of the body and having a funeral service despite her wishes (hence the title in English, Just Toss the Ashes), and finally moving on with their lives, they include more and more people who were touched by Sylvia's life in lasting ways. She was alone only in her mind.

With uncanny psychological realism, the author introduces one character after another, all well developed and with surprising new perspectives on Sylvia and life in general. Each point of view adds a piece to the fascinating puzzle that is this book and was Sylvia. It asks questions about the meaning of life and death and doesn't wrap everything up neatly. This is a book for readers who want to spend time with these questions and come up with their own responses.

See an illuminating interview with the author here.