25 Aug / The Caregiver [audio] by Samuel Park [in Booklist]
In April 2017, 41-year-old Park died of stomach cancer. His sophomore title was published 17 months later, aided by a close friend for over two decades, the novelist Curtis Sittenfeld, who played a significant role in deciphering Park’s final handwritten notes in order to get his manuscript to press.
Park inserts his diagnosis here, introducing Mara, the titular caregiver for a lonely 40-something woman with stomach cancer. Mara is already too familiar with loss, raised in Rio de Janeiro as the only child of a chimeric single mother for whom Mara was as much caretaker as she was taken care of by her. In alternating sections marked by Mara’s varying ages, Park hauntingly examines the codependent mother-daughter bond amid complicated layers created by the pursuit of truth.
While veteran Cassandra Campbell gives her usual serviceable performance, even her more ardent fans might find her all-purpose accents distracting. That said, those who commit to her emotional performance will be further drawn to Park’s absorbing words.