Book Review: Dislocations

Dislocations

“I find myself speaking in a void: there is no longer a home, no longer a before. Only an echo chamber.”

Dislocations, by Sylvia Molloy (translated by Jennifer Croft) is structured in short chapters, many less than a page in length. It documents moments, thoughts on interactions, between two long time friends. On most days the narrator, Molloy, will phone or visit M.L., who is living with dementia. In observing how a mind deteriorates their shared life becomes historical anecdotes that M.L. rarely remembers.

The period covered makes no mention of physical failings that can result from this condition. Neither is there violence or cruelty as sometimes manifests when social filters are lost. M.L. may not always recognise her visitor but retains decorum. The narrator questions why she sometimes attempts to get her friend to acknowledge a person or event – musing if this is for her benefit as she attempts to retain the person she has known for so long. There are still occasional flashes of comprehension but mostly the past is a lacuna to M.L.

There is poignancy in what is being documented but mostly Molloy is examining her personal reaction to this loss of shared memories, the loss of what her friend once was. M.L. is rarely portrayed as being upset by her condition. She functions within this new reality.

“I’m not writing to patch up holes and make people (or myself) think that there’s nothing to see here, but rather to bear witness to unintelligibilities and breaches and silences.”

A story of shared memory of lives lived, and the impact of its loss. Written with precision but also empathy, it offers another window into dementia and how it affects all who harbour affection for the patient.

My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Charco Press.

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Book Review: Homesick

homesick

Homesick, by Jennifer Croft, tells the story of Amy and her relationship with her little sister, Zoe. It is a bildungsroman of sorts, starting when Amy is five years old. The sisters are close, with Amy believing it is she who looks after Zoe rather than their parents. She is content with this arrangement until she reaches her teenage years when the secrets she keeps from her sibling increase.

The family lives in Oklahoma, close to the girls’ grandparents who they see regularly. The mother wishes her children to understand the realities of the world they live in, telling them stories of disasters, natural and man-made. The girls share a bedroom and draw comfort from each other when these anecdotes cause nightmares. Although not wealthy, theirs is a happy enough childhood until Zoe gets diagnosed with a health issue that could kill her.

Removed from school, Amy thrives academically. She enrols early at university but finds herself unravelling there. She believes her successes have come at a cost to those she cares most for. To save them may require a sacrifice.

The book is structured in short, succinct chapters. Despite its brevity, much of depth is conveyed. The author is a master of language and uses it to effect. The story remains warm and engaging despite elements of tragedy.

Originally written in Spanish in 2014, Homesick was published in Argentina under the apt title, Snakes and Ladders. It was described as a memoir, the key events in Amy’s life mirroring the author’s. This new, English edition is marketed as a novel and dedicated to Croft’s sister.

Whether Amy is based on the author or not, the tale told is riveting. Written with elan and compassion it captures the close world of childhood, how it shapes the emerging adult in myriad ways. The minimalist portrayal adds power to the complexities of character conveyed. A recommended read that will linger beyond the final page.

My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Charco Press.