A review by abbie_
Learning to Talk to Plants, by Marta Orriols

emotional hopeful reflective sad slow-paced
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes
Thank you to @pushkin_press for sending me a free copy of Learning to Talk to Plants by Marta Orriols to review! This one is translated from the Catalan by Mara Faye Lethem, and is a stunning depiction of grief and loss. Although it's a slow-paced, introspective novel, I devoured the whole thing on one sleepy Sunday, hypnotised by Orriols beautiful prose, so smoothly translated by Lethem.
The premise of the book is a woman dealing with the aftermath of her partner's death. But, outside of one person, no one knows that just a few hours before his death, he had broken off their relationship and revealed he'd been having an affair. Imagine wrestling with all of those feelings? The betrayal and hurt after learning your partner of many years has been cheating on you, those feelings barely sinking in, before they're ripped from this world. I can't imagine grappling with the grief and loss and anger all at once, I think I'd explode.
The novel goes back and forth, depicting Paula in the aftermath trying to sort through her feelings and get on with her life, and showing us snippets from 'before'. I always find it fascinating to be allowed such an intimate peek into someone's life - even if that someone is fictional. We also get to see some of Paula's childhood, which was blighted by the premature death of her mother. Although her father truly did the best he could, she still felt the aching loss of her mother throughout her childhood and adolescence, which Orriols portrays with a tenderness that brings tears to your eyes.
I think if you enjoyed Here is the Beehive by Sarah Crossan then you'll enjoy this too! Both deal with unique and unusual manifestations of grief. In Beehive, a woman is mourning the death of her married lover in private, as no one knew about their relationship. But I really can't recommend this one enough, especially if you like intense character studies interspersed with themes of love and loss.

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