A daughter comes to terms with family secrets as she deals with the effects of two tragedies from New York’s recent history.
In this novel, Impellizzeri (Lawyer Interrupted, 2016, etc.) follows two parallel narratives, those of Lu Roselli, dealing with the aftermath of a disaster and unraveling family mysteries, and her mother, Mari Guarez Roselli, a Guatemalan immigrant thinking back over her life while trapped in a coma. In 2012, Lu, ambivalent about a planned trip to her mother’s homeland, misses her flight, which crashes into her Queens neighborhood shortly after takeoff, leaving Mari injured and unconscious. Lu deals with her survivor’s guilt—an emotion she has lived with for more than a decade after her father and twin sister died on 9/11—while waiting to see if Mari will recover. Lu makes plans for the baby she did not know that her mother was carrying and sorts through the growing riddles of her family history and her complicated mother-daughter relationship. As Lu’s narrative progresses, the chapters alternate with those told from Mari’s perspective, flashbacks to her experiences in Guatemala and New York that serve to answer the questions Lu raises. Lu eventually travels to Guatemala, where she meets the nun who tells her the story Mari is revealing to the reader and also meets a man who becomes the first friend she has made in years. Impellizzeri draws on Guatemalan traditions to develop the book’s recurring motifs, particularly the practice of sharing worries with tiny dolls and the Mayan calendar projection that the end of the world will occur in December 2012, demonstrating a solid knowledge of the country’s history and culture. Thanks to Mari’s narration, the reader ends up with a more complete picture of the Roselli family than Lu does, an unusual choice but one that makes for an emotionally rewarding conclusion. The prose is serviceable, and the plot, though driven by complex layers of feelings and relationships, is fast-paced and not unnecessarily complicated.
A novel of grief, love, and truth that offers insights about a family and a satisfying resolution.