This will break your heart
(Sunday Times of Malta review)
This is the book that broke my heart and still made me love it, the one that I am recommending whole-heartedly even though reading is guaranteed to make you sad. Why would anyone want to do that, I hear you ask. The answer is simple. Finding beauty so raw that it will touch your heart is a rare thing in and of itself. When it comes in the shape of exquisitely-crafted words and a narrative that is so human and engaging… well, then it is priceless and certainly worth any amount of sadness.
Put simply, Nadia Mifsud Mutschler’s debut novel is about human relationships and emotions in their rawest format. It is about the bond between mother and daughter, a bond that can be as visceral as it can be tender. That between siblings, spelling out loyalty and love even in the face of rivalry. And finally, it is about the emotions shared by two lovers, about the thin line that straddles love and hate, and what happens when that line is crossed.
That Ir-Rota Daret Dawra (kważi) Sħiħa is Mifsud Mutschler’s first published fictional work is incredible – that it saw the light of day thanks to the #abbozz competition for new authors held by Merlin Publishers some years ago is extremely encouraging. To think that, without this initiative, this manuscript might not have seen the light of day is a very dismaying thought indeed.
But back to the topic at hand. Love, in all its formats, is what Ir-Rota depicts so touchingly. The prose, the way Mifsud Mutschler caringly constructs each sentence, places the novel squarely within the ambit of a literary work.
But do not let these words put you off. While masterfully crafted – Mifsud Mutschler uses every single word with precision, edging us towards a well-calculated end result – the book is extremely accessible, with a storyline that made me finish it off in one sitting.
The Maltese used is beautiful – but not in a way that suggests a pretentious approach, by which I mean some authors’ habit of pulling a ‘look at how many pretentious words that are barely used any more I can cram in a sentence’.
Written in the first person, a mother directly addressing her daughter, you can hear your own voice reflected in each sentence, reflecting your own personal joys, triumphs and anguish. The phrase ‘keep it real’ has finally found a home. And as you continue reading, you will find in this peculiar mother-daughter relationship a million other relationships that you, yourself have probably been through. Because, although the superficial topic here is maternal love, the underlying theme is the complexity of human nature, a complexity that affects every kind of relationship.
The book ‘rushes’ towards an ending that shocks, if the word ‘rushes’ can be employed with respect to writing that is so well-paced. If I have to criticise something, it will be certain sentiments expressed by the narrator with regards to the book’s climax. Without elaborating and falling into the spoilers’ trap, I found it impossible to agree with the narrator’s ‘justification’ of the main event, especially as expressed from the point of view of a mother. But this is fiction, of course, and it’s certainly the writer’s prerogative to give her narrator an empathic, rather than a vengeful, drive.
Whatever you make of the ending, one thing will certainly not be in discussion. And that is the way this book burrows a place into your heart and stays on your mind long after you have turned the last page. And that, after all, is the very essence of an amazing book.
– Ramona Depares