Happy Friday, all! Today I have a review of poignant and powerful novel publishing on September 25, 2018 by Simon Schuster.
Oh, how I love a mother-daughter story. The Caregiver is set in beautiful Rio de Janeiro in 1980s. Ana is everything to her daughter, Mara. She lives paycheck to paycheck as a voice-over actress, and is assertive, resilient, and reckless all at the same time. Ana has a fierce love for her daughter, but her limitations hold her back from being a traditional mom. As a result, Mara ends up mothering Ana and growing up earlier than her time.
Things begin to fall apart when Ana becomes involved in a hostile group trying to rid the city of its despicably brutal police chief. Her actions abruptly change their lives and not for the better. Mara has no choice but to flee Brazil for safety, and she emigrates to the United States. There she becomes the sole caregiver for a woman, Kathryn, diagnosed with terminal stomach cancer.
Through her service towards Kathryn, Mara learns about herself and addresses her incongruous and unusual relationship with her mother.
The mother-daughter push and pull relationship can be dramatic at times, but Park does not depict Ana and Maura in a grandiose way. There is an underlying emotional tone and poignance just beneath the surface that made my throat catch at times. Subtle but masterful.
I would offer The Caregiver is not just a story unique to mothers and daughters, but it is also about humans looking for love and connection as a way of obtaining a steadfast anchor. Related to that, it’s also about belonging and how that can in turn anchor, especially as it pertains to the immigrant experience.
The Caregiver is the first novel I have read by Samuel Park, and it turns out this book was published posthumously after he passed away from stomach cancer. Mr. Park had Mara care for someone dying of the same cancer he had. I have to wonder what it was like for him to write about that with it so close to home. What a gift is this author’s work.
Thank you to Simon Schuster for the ARC. All opinions are my own.
From the critically acclaimed author of This Burns My Heart comes gorgeous, emotionally wise tale about a daughter who unearths the hidden life of her enigmatic mother.
Mara Alencar’s mother Ana is the moon, the sun, the stars. Ana, a struggling voice-over actress, is an admirably brave and recklessly impulsive woman who does everything in her power to care for her little girl. With no other family or friends her own age, Ana eclipses Mara’s entire world. They take turns caring for each other—in ways big and small.
Their arrangement begins to unravel when Ana becomes involved with a civilian rebel group attempting to undermine the city’s torturous Police Chief, who rules over 1980s Rio de Janeiro with terrifying brutality. Ana makes decisions that indelibly change their shared life. When Mara is forced to escape, she emigrates to California where she finds employment as a caregiver to a young woman dying of stomach cancer. It’s here that she begins to grapple with her turbulent past and starts to uncover vital truths—about her mother, herself, and what it means to truly take care of someone.
Told with vivid imagery and subtle poignancy, The Caregiver is a moving and profound story that asks us to investigate who we are—as children and parents, immigrants and citizens, and ultimately, humans looking for vital connectivity.
Have you read The Caregiver or any other books by Samuel Park? Happy Reading! ~ Jennifer THR