I was delighted to receive this book for review from Penguin UK. Having grown up with memories of the Penguin logo in almost every bookshop I visited, it felt wonderful to be recognised as a reviewer by this world renowned publishing house.
'Flesh and Bone and Water' has nothing to do with South Asia. However, the commonality it shares with the region is that it is set in Brazil, a place that is often referred to as also being part of the 'third world' group of nations.
"It's easy to leave a place when you're young. Coming back is harder. That's my advice : stay where you are." And so begins this beautiful novel which I would term as part coming of age and part an immigrant's journey from Brazil to Londres (London). More importantly why does the protagonist Andre venture back on a journey to his childhood home?
The author Luiza Sauma has very poignantly narrated the story in first person so it feels like Andre is telling you his own story. You travel with Andre down memory lane to his life as an adolescent growing up in Rio. You are then introduced to his father, brother and their maid Rita and her daughter Luana. Life in Brazil is depicted wonderfully and impressions of a third world nation are brought to fore via descriptions of infrastructure, travel and general way of life. I particularly enjoyed reading about Brazilian food. A special mention here about the scrumptious fish stew and rice that the family ate on their visit to Marajo which lent a sense of comfort and homeliness to that chapter.
In Andre's present life in London, he appears to be stuck in a rut as a GP with a dysfunctional family. In the midst of his mundane reality he receives letters from Luana which prompt him to go back to Brazil where certain secrets are revealed. Secrets from the past are sometimes painful but can they also be liberating? The title of the book comes to fruition at the very end and that's when you realise the story effectively culminates into a whole and provides you with a completely different perspective on the novel.
I truly enjoyed this book and wouldn't hesitate to recommend it. I am also seriously considering travelling to Brazil in the near future all thanks to the author's description of the place and culture.