Indelible by Adelia Saunders

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She imagined this moment many times, wondering what would happen to her when she found out for certain whether the words were true or they weren’t. If they weren’t true, then she was crazy, and if they were, then the whole world was crazy and cruel to leave little notes like that, as if life was worried it might forget what it had planned.”

 

Magdalena has both a gift and a curse, depending on how you look at it. She can see words all over people, and the only relief is not seeing or being in foreign places with unfamiliar language. Here is where the magical realism breathes in Indelible, but this story isn’t simply magical, somehow it feeds us interesting history and makes us ache with the distance within families. It is about being foreign in a country and in one’s own family. Life seems to play with every character, tying them together through happenstance or maybe it’s fate. There are instant connections, misunderstandings, pilgrimages and in Richard’s search to understand his mysterious mother who abandoned him so long ago, a journey into the unanswerable why.

Richard’s most vivid memory of his mother, a famous novelist with a full yet tragic life, is a pair of red shoes branded on his brain, but denied by others who  swear he never saw such shoes. But who can say what is possible? Why does he vividly remember the moment, as if it happened yesterday? Why does his son not seem the least bit interested in helping him uncover the mystery of his mother? What does Magdalena have to do with Richard’s past?

This is an intelligently written novel, while some readers may pause because of the gift angle, know this isn’t a silly story, which can be fun in their own right. Indelible takes us through the damage our misunderstandings can have on our loved ones as much as ourselves. Richard’s son, Neil is standing on the precipice of adulthood and this sentence expresses beautifully how that feels. “But now that he was in college, wading straight into whatever it was that would turn out to be his life, suddenly each thing he did or didn’t do was tangled up in consequences.”  

Magdalena knows intimate and sometimes terribly rotten things about others, knowledge is a both a bitter and sweet fruit but can be downright poisonous when she doesn’t know, nor trust herself enough to act on it. Is it even possible to intervene? Her gift seems, at times, more like a cruelty. It’s an emotional journey, for each of the characters. My heart felt the heaviest reading about the ‘suspicious powder in Magdalena’s possession’ that spills when she is with Neil. That moment made me catch my breath in Neil’s first assumption.

Beautiful, unique debut and I am hungry for more by this talented author.

Publication Date: January 17, 2017  Bloomsbury USA

 

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