13 Aug / The Caregiver by Samuel Park [in Booklist]
At 26, Mara is the titular caregiver for a lonely woman in her early 40s with stomach cancer, who insists she’ll bequeath Mara her exclusive Bel Air home upon her impending death. Mara is already too familiar with loss, having grown up in Rio de Janeiro as the only child of a chimerical single mother, Ana, for whom she was as much caretaker as she was taken care of by her.
While surviving under Brazil’s military dictatorship, Ana’s talent for movie voice-over work gets her hired by a rebel group for a risky mission. What follows will haunt Mara always, precipitating her eventual escape to California.
In alternating sections marked by Mara’s different ages, Samuel Park’s (This Burns My Heart, 2011) tale hauntingly examines the codependent mother-daughter bond amid complicated layers created by the pursuit of truth.
Beyond the affecting pages, Park’s own April 2017 death of stomach cancer at 41 is a somber factor. The inclusion of his New York Times essay, “I Had a 9 Percent Chance. Plus Hope,” at the book’s end makes this an especially melancholic experience.