In this minimalist elegy, a man mourns the death of his family’s accidental matriarch.
Mrs. A. comes into the young couple’s life quite by accident—or perhaps by fate—when the unnamed narrator’s wife is placed on bed rest during her first pregnancy. Despite never having raised children herself, Mrs. A. quickly assumes command of the household, staying on to become their son’s nanny. So when she abruptly quits after more than eight years with the family, everyone is bewildered, and they're taken by surprise to learn months later that Mrs. A. is terminally ill. Without her gentle anecdotes about her late husband, Renato, and aptly chosen proverbs, the couple lacks a compass for marriage and child-rearing. They suspect that not only the order of their home, but also their relationships depended on Mrs. A. Often lyrical in its meditations, Giordano’s (The Human Body, 2014, etc.) latest novel at times risks lapsing into saccharine cliché: Mrs. A. is a force of nature steadying all of their lives, a lonely widow seeking a family to love, a miraculous finder of lost documents. Emotionally self-centered, unable to fully connect to others, the narrator and his wife call this seemingly magical woman “Mrs. A.” and “our Babette” (after the Karen Blixen novel) but never her given name. At its best, Giordano’s portrait of Mrs. A. lingers on the quirks that make her a lovable eccentric: her faith fractures as she begins to suspect God should be "ask[ing] her for forgiveness"; her trust in reason falters as she places her hopes in nebulously substantiated pseudo-scientific studies; her vanity thrills to a perfectly coiffed wig as she anticipates the effects of chemotherapy. And at his best, Giordano muses gorgeously on our inability to blend our life essences; even love leaves us lonely.
A lovely remembrance played in a minor key.