If she didn’t have to be his echo. What would it be like if she wasn’t tethered to him, always calculating his distance from earth’s flat surfaces, predicting when he might next wheel away or plummet. Then retrieving him, reviving him.
This is a heartbreaking story, as a family decides to leave the lush freedom of Brazil in the 1960’s for the restricting skin of Canada after the drowning of their eldest daughter, each family member unravels. Without a body, how can anyone accept the vanishing of Luiza, their fragile, beautiful girl? In the wake of tragedy, the allure of the Maurer family that captivated everyone, locals and friends alike, turns bitter. Luiza was an ‘odd girl’, and patriarch Hugo- Hugo and his madness, that excessive lust for life fatiguing others- it was bound to come crashing down. They aren’t so special in the end! His wife Dora, the great beauty, together they were the admired, passionate couple but beneath their pride, Hugo’s mental illness, his breakdowns coming and going like storms have been washing away the foundation of their glorious lives. The children too young or too tormented to comprehend the ruptures. That this paradise has been a place Hugo’s emotional nature is accepted, it may also have been feeding his boundless wildness. A change of environment is needed, a place with more stability, regardless of how restraining it will be on Hugo.
Luiza has found herself caught in the waves of her father’s mania, how much better he is when not dulled by pills and treatments. Who is the real Hugo? Is it her mother’s fault, trying to fix the very things about her father that makes him a bright sun in the world? Luiza is Hugo’s girl, she too has a storm inside of her both terrifying and mesmerizing. Dora is the true head of the family, keeping Hugo’s chaos contained, but blind to the effects on her daughters. Evie’s veil of youth is thinning, she is beginning to see the darkness overtaking her family, desperate to understand the secrets her naive mind can’t make sense of. Broken by the loss of her sister, both parents unavailable, outsiders interfering and taking her mother away when she and her father need her most. The house is divided and half packed, the Maurer family is in a self-imposed purgatory. Will they ever leave this paradise and the horror of everything that happened? Will they dig up Luiza’s secrets? How are her last days tied to her mother’s deceptions?
This is an interesting story, because on the one hand it exposes the heartbreaking reality of mental illness on an entire family, not simply the ugly side but the beauty and enchantment of it. Hugo and Dora’s love is deep, abiding but his illness asks much of Dora, and she is a woman with her own hungry needs. Dora’s affair in the past has punishing consequences, and there is nothing just about it. Hugo knows what life with him is like, but he cannot change who he is, but lord he tries! He has always been determined to be solid, better, to return whole to his beloved. The reader is privy to Hugo’s thoughts about his Bipolar disorder, which is important as much as those trying to hold him up. There is a seductive power in mania- the unbridled energy, the brilliance that makes it so appealing but too it is toxic in the destructive forces on innocence. Life, such as this, can also be a prison. Sometimes amputation from the family is the only form of escape. Love can be a destructive force, even when it doesn’t mean to be. A heartbreaking novel about mental illness and a family scrambling to pull themselves back together.
Publication Date: August 8, 2017
Little, Brown and Company