By Hana Zittel
Published Issue 090, June 2021
A Perfect Cemetery by Federico Falco (2016), Translated by Jennifer Croft 2021
Federico Falco circles the melancholy circumstances of death in his first translated book into English through five short stories. Each set in the mountainous region of Córdoba, Argentina, Falco winds us into snippets of life in this province.
In Silvi and Her Dark Night, a finalist for the García Márquez Short Story Prize, a young girl abandons her catholic faith after becoming infatuated with a Mormon missionary, rejecting her family in the process. The opening story, the king of the hares, sets the collection deep in place exploring the life of a man who leaves civilization to live among the animals of the forest, with the grim and gory realities of this chosen life. The title story, A Perfect Cemetery, remains the most memorable as a cemetery designer is invited to a small town to design the perfect cemetery before the father of the town’s mayor dies. In this quest, the designer, Victor Bagiardelli, is met with tricks and turns from the townspeople while trying to achieve the design he is determined will be his masterpiece.
Federico Falco manages to create such straightforward stories with hidden complexity. They are readable and easy to digest, but leave a deep haunting feeling, creating an encompassing portrait of Argentina. Falco’s exploration of death and dying feels new and subtle, where his elegant storytelling leaves you musing on how death changes and follows us at all points of life.
And Now I Spill The Family Secrets: An Illustrated Memoir by Margaret Kimball (2021)
In her debut graphic novel, Margaret Kimball dives into the pinpoint moment she felt her entire family crumble. Feeling so much like an elaborate diary, Kimball fills the book with details along the edges and compiles bits of archival family material on each page.
The memoir centers on her mother’s attempted suicide at age 31, and the family life that circles that event including eventual divorce and her mother’s hospital stay. Kimball works to accumulate evidence and interviews with family to try and discover the cause of the event that seemed to crack her family completely. From tapes, photos, and memories she traces her mother’s extended family and starts to understand the complexity of both of her parents’ lives and the repercussions of unacknowledged or misunderstood mental illness.
Kimball’s memoir is extremely well-written and beautifully captures the unique realization of adult children that our parent’s lives are deeply complex and flawed, despite evidence to the contrary when we are growing up. Her first graphic novel extends far beyond her natural and enthralling writing and combined with her detailed illustration style creates an impressive debut.
Hana Zittel is a librarian at the Denver Public Library in addition to being a librarian at the Denver Zine Librarian. She grew up in Steamboat Springs, Colorado and pretty much just likes being outside with her pup when she has some free time, and reading, that might have been assumed though.
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