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The Crack Magazine

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Elena Knows by Claudia Piñeiro

In Elena Knows by Claudia Piñeiro (and superbly translated by Frances Riddle), Elena, a mother with severe Parkinson’s disease, investigates her daughter’s ‘suicide’, but was it suicide or was it murder? Elena ‘knows’ it’s murder because who can know a daughter better than a mother, and she knows her daughter, Rita, would not have committed suicide based on the weather (she was afraid of lightning) and where she was found (in a place more likely to be hit by lightning than any other: the church belfry). Getting nowhere with the local priest and police who have given up on the case (there is no case), Elena’s last hope is a fraught journey to find Isabel, an acquaintance from the past and the one person left in her life who may be able to help. Will her pills, that temporarily ease her Parkinson’s, work well enough to let her control and move her body forward so she can journey across Buenos Aires? Will she find Isabel? And if she does, will Isabel let Elena call in a twenty-year-old debt so that she can use Isabel’s body to do the investigative legwork she can no longer do herself? With plenty to say about the stultifying and dogmatic arrogance of the Catholic Church, filial relationships, caregiving and trying to find some quality of life with a debilitating illness, Elena Knows is naturally fairly downbeat, but with its pugnacious and unlikely heroine, whose eventual ‘not knowing’ opens up another path in her life, there is a chink of some kind of light. “What are you going to do now? Isabel asks. Elena would like to have an answer…she doesn’t know. Or because now she knows, she doesn’t say anything, she doesn’t respond, she just pets the cat. That’s enough today, petting a cat. Maybe tomorrow, when she opens her eyes and takes her first pill of the morning, she’ll know. Or when she takes the second. Maybe.”

Elena Knows – Claudia Piñeiro – publ. Charco Press - £8.99

Steven Long