My Mother is a River by Donatella Di Pietrantonio – Review

Published by – Calisi Press

Publication date – 4 November 2015

Source – review copy

Translated by – Franca Scurti Simpson


“The sensitive and powerful story of the love between a mother and her daughter, a love “gone wrong from the start”. When Esperia exhibits the symptoms of a disease that robs her of her memory and the very sense of her existence, it is time for the daughter to take care of her and help her to rebuild her disintegrating identity. So the daily recounting of the past begins. Day after day we learn about the characters of the extended family, the inhabitants of the small village still without running water or electricity, in a “bright and harsh” Abruzzo, which emerges from the pages like a mythological distant land. They are bittersweet memories, full of life and truth, that rebuild the story of a relationship and of an Italy that appears so very distant and yet it is still present in our characters’ history. And, in the telling, the mother and daughter relationship slowly changes, fluctuating between love and hate, nostalgia and denial.

A surprising new novel, revealing a strong voice weaving a compelling magic spell.”

4 of 5 stars

I received a copy of this book from the publisher and this is my honest opinion of the book.

Esperia has started to succumb to the harsh disease that robs her of her memories. It is now the turn of her daughter to care for her. In daily interactions her grown child tells Esperia tales of her past in a battle to allow Esperia to keep on to her sense of self. As we listen to the tales of village life and family members we learn more about the relationship between the two.

The story is told in a monologue format. This makes the book all the more touching and evocative. We hear only from Esperia’s daughter as she tells her stories of her past. We hear responses to Esperia’s questions and are also able to find out more about her situation as her daughter dwells on her condition. We are also allowed to see her daughter’s internal battle between wanting to care for her mother and show her love whilst conversely wanting to push her away in response to Esperia’s treatment of her as a child. Interspersed with this conflict is the fear that she too faces the future her mother has, that her memories too will vanish.

The setting is also perfectly placed. I have been to Abruzzo and am aware of its beauty. It is a different facet of Italy, one of mountains and sea, farming and little villages. I have seen the farm houses that have become virtual ruins and so I could easily envisage the places of Esperia’s youth. Similarly the pictures of family life, of farming in rural Italy and the challenges faced at the time are vividly portrayed. People who only appear in shared memories are characters in their own right.

This is a moving, sad story. It is a story of the places we come from, how people and surroundings shape us and how they can have a domino effect on the lives of others. It is a short book at around 176 pages but much is contained in the slim volume.

This is the first book to be published by new publishers Calisi Press. I look forward to seeing more titles from them. Hopefully more of Donatella Di Pietrantonio’s works will be published too.


5 Comments Add yours

  1. I’m so glad you enjoyed this as much as I did, Janet. Such a powerful book.


    1. janetemson says:

      It really is; funny sad and moving in such a few pages.


  2. This sounds like a truly moving book!


    1. janetemson says:

      It is. It’s understated but that makes it even more sad I think. I’m very glad I read it. Let me know what you think of it if you read it 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.