Thursday, April 29, 2021

Review: If You Kept a Record of Sins

If You Kept a Record of Sins If You Kept a Record of Sins by Andrea Bajani
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lorenzo's mother dies after he hasn't seen her in many years, and he travels to Romania for her funeral. He meets his mother's former partner (business and love) and others from her life. There are memorable moments and characters like the driver, the new young lover of his mother's former partner, the coffin maker, and a funeral in the middle of a church under construction, attended by the workers. The novel is written in 2nd person, as in Lorenzo addressing his internal thoughts to his dead mother.

This is an outsider view, of Romania, of his mother. One is probably better than portrayed - Romania. There are multiple characters talking about how Romanians "don't want to work" and a lot of negative stereotypes along those lines. Ceaușescu Palace looms in the background as a reminder of recent oppression, which the characters seem to feel in their bones, while at the same time trying to separate from it. Lorenzo is also an outsider to his mother, since she left him with his Dad in Italy when he was a child, and came back less and less as she took her "weight loss egg" to the world. Except I get the sense that either her business flopped or it was never a success to begin with, and she was in Romania for different reasons. He seems to know nothing about her decline and how she was living when she died.

Another side note - I know a Romanian who had to travel to that country after her mother died and it took months to work through the bureaucracy. Lorenzo must have better connections, because in under one week he has a funeral, cleans out her home, and deals with the business.

One more side note, the title is a Biblical reference, Psalm 130:3, included in many Lenten and funeral rites as well. "If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand?" A priest reads this at the mother's funeral and it leads into a confrontation between the son and former partner that felt very smart.

Thank you Archipelago Books for bringing books and authors to us through your translations and publications! I had a copy of this from the publisher through Edelweiss. It came out March 3, 2021.

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