Have you ever been with someone and you knew it was over? Maybe even worse than that, you both knew it was over? In our current society I am almost certain that this happens all the time. Couples that would otherwise leave each other or divorce are forced to stay together for a multitude of reasons, the least of which being financial, but others probably include comfort or familiarity.
In A Separation, Katie Kitamura uses wealth to help remove these chains to help us work through the story. These are two people who can afford to leave each other, and based on Christopher’s affairs, they probably should. Our wife never gives us a name (or if we discover it it’s so quick that we miss it) and speaks in first person as she narrates us through her search.
She and her husband live in London, but they have agreed to separate and not let anyone know just yet. When his mother Isabella calls to ask where he is, our narrator is sent on a journey to a small luxury hotel in Greece where he was last known to be, according to his mother. It’s a fire-razed area due to arson committed by local feuding farming families, and if you aren’t careful or even looking for it, you’ll miss all the symbolism up front prior to the discovery of Christopher’s body about halfway through the book. This is not a spoiler, you already know that’s what’s coming.
The first half of this book takes you through her decision and resolve to finally end things, to let go and start anew. The second half shows us what we do when we are forced to let go, the steps necessary for moving on. The entirety is told in a narrative voice that reflects the profession of a translator, which the narrator is in the story, and conveys events as they happened in a prose that is almost completely emotionless. Not to sound like a pretentious asshole, but I kind of liked this because it presented a blank slate onto which I could project my imagined emotions based on the character on display at the time and based on my own experience of being cheated on.
So that’s what you can expect from the book itself, but what do I think personally? The first half of the book was very exciting. Despite the deadpan prose I KNEW the husband was dead and I couldn’t wait to find out how. Seeing her make her way around the rural town in Greece revealed a soap opera-esque setup where his only destiny could have been murder. After we discover his murder, the book becomes very mundane and not until the very end do you get the whole picture of this book’s intention, which I believe to be that even a separation comes with commitments. You can move on from something, but if you don’t do it well you will always be chained to it. It is essential to be decisive, to stand up for yourself and what you want, or you could be a slave to something for the rest of your life.
Full disclosure though, if I got 3,000,000 pounds because my estranged husband died and no one knew we had “separated” I would take the money and use it. I know where my limits are and if the man didn’t want to be legally beholden to me he should have taken the ring off it. JUST SAYIN’.
Read it or not, it’s a meh in my book.