Be Careful. A Separation Will Linger with You

Like a big red wine. Swirl. Sip. Swish. We don’t spit our red wine here at BookBar, thank you.

Katie Kitamura’s A Separation is complex, rich, and packs a long finish. Kitamura builds a psychological fun house around the question, what happened to Christopher? The narrator, Christopher’s wife, finds herself in a lush isolated corner of Southern Greece, a foreigner swept up intimately in remnants of a secret life he’s mystifyingly vacated.

The brilliance of this short novel is in Kitamura’s ability to capture ambiguity in spare language and odd bright scenes through the eyes of the stilted narrator. It’s addicting. She’ll spend five pages detailing a lover’s spat between two adjacent characters and never once allow the narrator to indulge in a flashback to her own marriage and the conflict that has caused their separation. This is less a story about marriage as it is a story about the mysterious universes inside and somehow unreachable in all of us – how they shape shift in a gray mass under the illogical decisions daily life and separate us from the real intimacy marriage would portend to be. Instead of openly lamenting a sense of isolation, Kitamura evokes a sense of fire on the hills, sends her narrator into the home of a professional griever for Greek funerals, and into the icy ocean on a death-defying swim. But just when you think Kitamura has lulled you into a mind meandering mess, the book pivots and skewers with an unexpected conclusion.

They’re comparing her writing to Hemingway for a reason. With a plot that could have been a much more straightforward who dun it, CSI, mystery/thriller, Kitamura has gone digging through the basement of human disconnection and come up with oh so many delicious and haunting questions. So order up a big red blend, this is one to savor slowly.