Review: This Too Shall Pass by Milena Busquets

Screen Shot 2017-03-31 at 9.02.08 PMMore than anything, Busquets’ novella is a testament to loss. Taking place in Barcelona, Blanca has recently lost her mother. As she struggles to reconcile with the massive fissure of losing her one true love, as she puts it, readers see her engage in multiple amorous relationships and attempt to replace the love she is lacking. While I find the narrative somewhat without, there are paragraphs of startling insight that I would not give up if I had the chance to decide to read this book again.

Offering wonderful intuit of loss and the human condition, Busquets’ narrative explores what it means to love, lose, and grow up, regardless of culture.

For more on This Too Shall Pass, published in paperback on February 21st, 2017, by Hogarth Press, continue. 

“I’m not made for this depth of sadness,” Blanca states. “Or maybe I am, maybe it’s the precise size of pain, maybe it’s the only dress left that can fit me” (78). Having lost her father in her late teens, and now her mother at age forty, Blanca is left orphaned. While a disconcerting notion, it also leaves her feeling somewhat comforted in that we are all made for that eventuality.

While Blanca works to reconcile her feelings of loss after her mother, she attempts to fill the gaps of physical comfort by rekindling relationships of her past. She has two ex-husbands and three children among them. While this book takes place in another culture, I still find her attempts at fill-in love rather pitiful. It’s an obvious attempt to feel better, much like an addict’s search for a brief high that eventually leaves the residue of disappointment. In this, I found the book incredibly accurate of how loss leaves one wanting.

Overall I found the narrative of this novella to be one of frustration. Again, perhaps this is related to culture, but there were plentiful instances of paragraphs extending on for pages, leaving me reading guessing the point. Had the narrative all been stream-of-consciousness, I feel this would have been warranted, necessary even. As it is, much of the novel is from Blanca’s perspective, but she shifts into speaking to her mother directly (as “you”) haphazardly, which lends itself to confusion if one is not paying meticulous attention to detail.

I refuse to renounce a single one of my loves or my wounds over some stupid sense of heroics.

As mentioned above, Busquets’ moments of clarity outweigh the frustration. To note, she renders a comment on a loss we all experience: “The first crown a person loses, and perhaps the only one that can never be regained, is that of youth: childhood doesn’t count because we’re not even aware yet of the incredible bounty of energy, strength, beauty, freedom, and candor that will belong to us in a few years, which the luckiest among us will squander beyond measure” (98). At many points, Blanca notes that she feels like a child still—even at forty—on the playground, and I often find myself feeling the same way.

And again: “Love never expires, though, at least not in my case. I still love all the people I have ever loved, and I can’t help but see the person for what he or she was before everything turned to ash. I still see them untainted, despite all the desertions and disloyalties on my part or on theirs. I refuse to renounce a single one of my loves or my wounds over some stupid sense of heroics. It would be like denying my own self. I know that not everyone understands; the blanket of shame is heavy and resistant, and many people wear their hatred and resentment as badges…” (147-148). This insight hits me hard, as I too find many in my circle of friends and family to want to sever ties with anyone who’s done them wrong, and, frankly, I did as well for many years. The older I get, however, the more I see that grace is afforded to those who can accept the loss and love others for what they offer regardless of their transgressions and missteps.

I highly recommend this book for a flight, beach, or weekend read as it is quick and offers insight to delight. It is somewhat sad, so if you have a parent or close family member whom is ill, I might delay it a bit for the connections it will likely connote, but it is worth reading for quotes like those above.

Update (4/2/17): The more I sit with the events of this book, the more I dislike Blanca as a character. She has three kids, and several ex-lovers (which is not where I take issue). My concern is that throughout this entire book she thinks of no one except herself. I myself have only one child (lovers notwithstanding), but I find that no matter my life circumstance, his existence permeates everything I do. While she discusses her children a few times throughout the book, I find that for the most part they are not involved in her day-to-day decisions, especially when she continues to have a relationship with one of her son’s fathers, never considering the effect this might have on her son’s view of their connection. I’m not one to say that parents should live solely for their children—lord, help us, no—but her lack of consideration irks me and changes my perception of the novel. For those of you whom have read this book, please tell me if this is a cultural difference or if I’m being judgmental.

I received and advanced reader copy of this paperback via Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review. It has since been published market wide. 

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