Luisa, Selma’s ten-year-old granddaughter, looks on as the predictable characters of her small world begin acting strangely. Though they claim not to be superstitious, each of her neighbors newly grapples with buried secrets and deferred decisions that have become urgent in the face of death.
Luisa’s mother struggles to decide whether to end her marriage. An old family friend, known only as the optician, tries to find the courage to tell Selma he loves her. Only sad Marlies remains unchanged, still moping around her house and cooking terrible food. But when the prophesied death finally comes, the circumstances fall outside anyone’s expectations. The loss forever changes Luisa and shapes her for years to come, as she encounters life’s great questions alongside her devoted friends, young and old.
A story about the absurdity of life and death, a bittersweet portrait of small towns and the wider world that beckons beyond, this charmer of a novel is also a thoughtful meditation on the way loss and love shape not just a person but a community. Mariana Leky’s What You Can See from Here is a moving tale of grief, first love, reluctant love, late love, and finding one’s place in the world, even if that place is right where you started.
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My rating: 4 of 5 stars
What you can see from here by Mariana Leky is a 2021 Farrar, Straus and Giroux publication.
A quaint, touching story-
Luise, due to the rather unusual situation with her parents, is mostly raised by her grandmother, Selma. Selma has the rather strange strait of dreaming about Okapi, an animal that closely resembles a Zebra. When Selma has one of these dreams, it unfortunately signals pending death -within a 24 hour time span.
When Luise was ten years old, Selma has one of her dreams, which puts the entire community on edge. Just when everyone breathes a sigh of relief, the unimaginable happens.
In the days and years to come, as Luise grows older, she must grapple with the big questions of life- grief, love- both familial and romantic- as she observes, and listens to those surrounding her, finding contentment in her surroundings, while pondering adventures outside of her comfort zone.
This is certainly an offbeat little story. As I understand it, this book was very popular abroad and has been translated from its original German language. The story doesn’t flow in the way I am accustomed, leaping over large gaps in time. It is a little jarring, truth be told, but these wacky characters are so charming, I couldn’t help but fall under their spell.
The book has some strong Buddhist themes, and though I’m not invested in those teachings, the story doesn’t hinge on that. It is ultimately a story of life- and the attitude in which one approaches it. Pain and loss are unavoidable and is something that can’t be handled any one particular way- but must be accepted as a part of life. There are some genuinely funny segments in the book and the story was wonderfully tender and heartwarming, overall.
This is another offbeat book I’ve stumbled across this month that might not hit everyone the same way, but I thought it was a delightful story and truly enjoyed it.
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