The Woman Behind the Waterfall

32730830.jpgTitle: The Woman Behind the Waterfall

                             Writer: Leonora Meriel

Publishing House: Granite Cloud

                                          Date of Publication: October 1st 2016

                             Rating: 4 stars

‘’All my mistakes are my own.’’

This is a novel about having the ability to commit your own mistakes and learn that something good may come from ill choices. It is a novel about not giving up to despair and hardship, about ignoring all the do-gooders and obey your heart, no matter the consequences. It is a novel about love and acceptance and the sacred, eternal bond between a mother and a daughter. It is a bright example of Literary Fiction and one of the most poetic, ethereal novels I’ve read this year. There are so many beautiful reviews on this book, so I haven’t got much to add. Still, I read a comment stating that the positive reviews exist because we’re afraid (!) to say the truth. Well, try to picture this: some of us have actually enjoyed it…I never, ever comment on opinions, but this remark was rude and offensive and insensitive. Some need to learn that there are opinions which are different and we can discuss without calling names. So, if we write a negative review, we are honest and if we write a positive review, we are liars? Just because our tastes as readers differ? In which universe do those people live, I wonder…Anyway. End of rant.

Angela is a lovely and lively girl who lives with her mother in a village in Ukraine, during our times. The father is nowhere to be seen and her mother is slowly descending into depression, no matter how hard she tries to fight against it. Angela understands her deterioration and is torn between blaming herself and trying to help Lyuda stand on her feet. She realises that a benevolent, nightly spirit watches over them and perhaps, the healing process is about to begin. But it is far from easy and the end is anything but guaranteed.

This is a very difficult book to review because it creates so many thoughts the reader needs to absorb. The writing is exquisite, it is literary and poetic, but I found it approachable enough if one is willing to dedicate time and thought. The story is simple but told in an elegant, mysterious, haunting kind of language and the voices of the three women of the family can be clearly heard and are brilliantly constructed and direct. Meriel manages to create beautiful images out of daily activities and glimpses into the people of the community. The nightly scenes are hypnotizing and mesmerizing and they reminded me of the atmosphere I often experience when reading Russian or Finnish literary novels. Meriel’s pen brought to mind the poetic language of Oksanen in certain instances.

The three women represent the three generations of the family, three different ways of thought, of feelings and experiences. Angela is a bright child, wise beyond her years, gifted. We enter her thoughts on her mother and their life, we see her deep connection with the nature around her, her quick perception of people and spirits alike. Lyuda is a woman of sorrow and regret, full of love for her onlychild and bitterness for the wretch of a man who fooled her with empty promises. She dreams of a different life, a different way things might have turned out. Angela’s grandmother is the woman of her time, an old era which gave her the experiences needed to warn her daughter of the traps laid before her. But she chose not to listen. And yet, it didn’t matter. Her life was own to decide. And if she created a waterfall of tears and hopes and regret, it is her doing and she had the right to fight for it.

The only thing that didn’t work for me was the whole concept of the Nightspirit. It was rather intriguing at first, but then, I felt that it became too repetitive and too New Age spiritualistic for my taste. Also, I know that it may possibly be a bit confusing for readers who aren’t familiar with Literary Fiction or even Magical Realism. The different timelines aren’t always clearly conveyed and this may present certain difficulties, but do not fret. You’ll certainly have an idea what is going on if you read carefully and if you like beautiful, poetic language.

This is a story that centers around womanhood, motherhood, disappointment, loss, sorrow and hope. It’s not for everyone, it’s not for those who strictly look for fast-paced action stories or romances. But if you are in the mood to read a novel that is full of poetry, beauty and dreams, then give it a try.

Many thanks to Granite Cloud and NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.