Apr 9, 2015

All That Followed, by Gabrial Urza (August 2015)

The Basque region of Spain is a place - and a situation - of which we are all for the most part only somewhat aware. In the U.S., we hear little more than the occasional mention of a new referendum for independence or the more rare 6 o'clock news version of a terrorist/freedom fighter bombing. "All That Followed," written by an American of Basque extraction who lived in the area for a time, sheds some much needed light on a region with an incredibly rich cultural history, and a painful, tormented political past. The story is told in short chapters from three different perspectives: Joni, an American who fell in love with a Basque woman and has lived in Muriga, a small Basque town, since the 1940s; Mariana, a young woman from Muriga whose husband belonged to the wrong political party and was kidnapped and murdered; and Iker, the young man who is in jail for that crime. Each voice has its own weight, an almost sultry flirtation between acknowledging history as it was while needing to create its own version of the story.

At the heart of it all is Muriga, a small town like any other small town, filled with gossip and unspoken accusations. People want others out of their own business but cannot help commenting on everyone else's. This brings familiarity to the story; we can recognize these tropes from our own towns. And Urza's writing is wonderful, allowing you to sink into these characters, though that makes it a bit difficult to switch between them, sometimes. The nuance is impressive for a debut novelist, and I'm glad someone is writing about a place we often forget unless it's on the news because something horrible happened there.

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