TRAVEL & GEOGRAPHY

Mourning

Bellevue Literary. May 2018. 160p. tr. from Spanish by Lisa Dillman & Daniel Hahn. ISBN 9781942658443. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9781942658450. LITERARY
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As in The Polish Boxer and its sequel, Monastery, Halfon makes fiction of memoir, as his protagonist (named Eduardo Halfon) continues tracing his roots. Investigating the mystery of his uncle Salomón's drowning as a child, which proves not to be what it seems (resonating differently, yet still resonating, with life's ongoing tragedy), Halfon uncovers hidden tension within his father's Lebanese-Jewish family, immigrants to Guatemala and America. Meanwhile, he travels to Italy for an unsettling conference at a reconstructed concentration camp and to Poland, where he visits the home of his maternal grandfather, a Holocaust survivor. Why pick apart the past? He's not sure, but the journey is half the point, clarifying in fluid, accessible language that however slippery, memory is essential to who we are.
VERDICT For readers interested in family, memory, 20th-century history, and strong literature.

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