Una madre

Author: Alejandro Palomas
- Fiction
- Siruela Nuevos Tiempos
- ISBN: 978-8416120437
- Release Date: 01-01-2014
-Reviewed by: Lynn Leazer

Una madre is set in Mamá Amalia's Barcelona apartment during a New Year's Eve celebration with her three adult children (Silvia, Fernando and Emma), her brother Eduardo, and Emma's lesbian partner Olga. The time period is contemporary, and past events, many of which were tumultuous, are told through flashbacks that form separate, interspersed chapters. The flashbacks are easy to distinguish from the present action, which is limited, as the novel is not plot-driven, but rather revolves around personalities and feelings and the impact of past events on them. The plotlines are as varied as the members of a family, but like family, the stories share much in common and are naturally interwoven.

Una madre gives the reader much somber food for both thought and feeling; yet, many moments of sheer hilarity provide comic relief, especially in the dialogue, which is the novel's main strength. The story is told from Fernando's point of view, and the language ranges from colloquial and conversational to contemplative and poignant. 

Palomas explores numerous themes through the use of easily accessible metaphors and symbols, including, for example, the silla de las ausencias at the dinner table that represents deceased loved ones, and the bosques alemanes that are the dark corners of one's experience and personality.

While the overall idea of the book does not seem particularly different or unusual, its treatment of universal themes with humor and tenderness in a contemporary setting make it especially engaging and moving. The universal themes include the unique and almost spiritual nature of motherhood; coming to terms with the loss of a loved one; the public self vs. the private self; the strength of truth and the right to know it; and many aspects of family dynamics.

This novel was inspired by the movie The Hours and the 1999 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name by Michael Cunningham, which in turn was inspired by Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway. In all three books, the action takes place within a 24-hour period, features characters of differing sexual orientations, many of whom have suffered severe loss and hardship and most of whom persevere, whose lives were previously intertwined and who come together for a party. The themes of Una madre and the general premise of overcoming adversity (especially for women) to become stronger as a person and a family are prevalent not only in many contemporary novels, but in literature throughout the ages. The inclusion of Fernando's and Eduardo's stories in Una madre make it more appealing to a wider audience and less likely to be dismissed as "chick lit." While society's treatment of homosexuality is a common and serious theme in contemporary fiction, the characters in Una madre could just as easily have been heterosexual without changing the story or its messages.  In fact, Palomas' treatment of lesbianism with gentle levity is refreshing.



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