To say that Katharina is having a stressful day is the understatement of the whole novel. The book starts and ends within one day… and what a day! Katharina is a woman in her 40s, a mother of two (a teenaged boy and a ADHD middle grade girl), a wife to an architect who works in another city during the week and leaves her to manage home alone, a daughter to a woman who died of breast cancer when Katharina was in her teens, a sister to a musician woman who is rather self-centered, a helpful neighbor to an excentric couple, a part-time music teacher for pre-k kids, and many other different hats. But nobody really looks at her and sees her as she is, stressed-out, overwhelmed and afraid.
She hardly has time to catch her breath between driving her daughter around, solving out issues of a clothes dryer on fire, lost pets, injured neighbors, son’s girlfriend, daughter’s first period and desperately trying to stay on top of daily chores. Still, these tasks are nothing compared to deeper problems that lurk at the back of her mind. Katharina has discovered a lump in her breast, and her marriage to Costas is not at its best. But she can’t (or won’t) settle down to take these questions in, she runs from one chore to the next in a whirlwind of daily activities and small worries. She’s a bit like a German cousin of Kate Reddy (from Allison Pearson’s bestseller), but a pessimistic Kate without the benefits of British witticism and Pearson’s chick lit obligatory happy end.
Although I could totally empathize with the nature of Katharina’s problems, it was difficult for the first half of the book to connect with her as a character. We jump from one scene to the next, from one problem to the next without getting properly introduced to Katharina, and she doesn’t come out as very likeable at first. Also, it’s a feminist stream-of-consciousness novel, but imposing an endless to-do list on the reader is unfair, I have my own mental load, thank you very much!
I did persevere (slightly because the book is set in Lübeck and I have such fond memories of this town!) and I was glad I had, because the second half was much better. We get to the back stories and the deeper issues of Katharina’s life and the ending just blew my mind and nearly made me cry.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, for review consideration.