FICTION

Ordesa

Riverhead. Dec. 2020. 304p. ISBN 9780593084045. $28. f ;.
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A divorced, retired middle-school teacher and reformed alcoholic travels to Ordesa, the small town in northern Spain where he was born, to inventory his life’s losses: his poor traveling salesman father, his mentally unstable mother, his ex-wife (about whom we learn nothing), his distanced children, objects, love. His identity lies buried in the cemetery of his memory, which seems to be fading, too. Striving to adapt to a solitary life after deaths and divorce, he presents the poignant and sensitive portrait of a wounded man who nevertheless admits he avoided his responsibilities, failed his family, and always took the blame. Through the 157 short chapters (unfortunately, the author opted not to include the epilog of 11 poems found in the Spanish original), the narrator takes readers on a journey both nostalgic and melancholic, moving from his ancestors to the present as he alternates between events and introspective musings. His obsessive but unreliable attempts to recall dates contrast sharply with the immutability of the mountainous region of his birth.
VERDICT This stunning work of autobiographical fiction will appeal more to mature readers, who will appreciate its autumnal tone and the catharsis of a man seeking to extract meaning from his past, uncertain whether he has found it or even if he can. [See Prepub Alert, 6/3/20.]

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