Young Maris has been summoned to his mother's bedside as she nears the end of her life; she feels she must tell him her version of their family history, the story of his early life, and the ways in which he changed the lives of others. Read more...
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Young Maris has been summoned to his mother's bedside as she nears the end of her life; she feels she must tell him her version of their family history, the story of his early life, and the ways in which he changed the lives of others. Maris was born with what some might call a blessing and others might deem a curse: his very large, very special ears enable him to hear the secrets of the dead, as well as the memories that haunt his Latvian hometown. Nestled in the woodlands on the banks of the Aiviekste River, their town suffered the ravages of war, then the cold shock of independence. As a boy, Maris found himself heir to an odd assortment of hidden letters; a school project provided the chance to share them, forcing the town to hear the truth from the past and face what it meant for their future. With "luminous writing and] affection for her characters" (New York Times), Gina Ochsner creates an intimate, hopeful portrait of a fascinating town in all its complications and charm. She shows us how, despite years of distrust, a community can come through love and loss to the joy of understanding -- enabled by a great-grandmother's legacy, a flood, and a boy with very special ears.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2016-05-02
- Reviewer: Staff
In Ochsner’s (The Russian Dreambook of Color and Flight) strange, vivid second novel, a woman in a tiny Latvian village traces the magic-infused story of her life. Inara has known that her son, Maris, was special since the day he was born with “ears as large as soup bowls” and a superhuman ability to hear the very vibrations in the earth. Now, as she begins to lose her battle with cancer, Inara summons Maris to her deathbed to tell him her life story in an attempt to help him make sense of his origins. Through bizarre, often hilarious vignettes featuring a cast of colorful characters and slapstick moments, Inara’s tale comes to light: her early childhood under the final days of Soviet rule in Latvia, losing the family’s ancestral home, falling in love twice, and giving birth to Maris. Woven throughout are bits and pieces of the poetic, cryptic letters that her grandmother Velta wrote to her husband and secreted away inside the family’s home, folded neatly in a box as well as scribbled in the margins of newspaper hidden beneath the wallpaper. The letters provide a glimpse into Velta’s life during and after WWII, a blend of beauty and unspeakable tragedy. Ochsner has created an entire town filled with characters who display eccentric habits and engage in sharp-tongued banter, bringing a touch of believability to even the book’s most out-there anecdotes. Humor, mythology, and an immersive setting, as well as a few poignant and visceral moments as family secrets are revealed, render this a memorable tale. Agent: Julie Barer, Book Group. (July)