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A Seventh Woman?,
This review is from: Hand Me Down World (Paperback)
Hand Me Down World is the story of one woman's journey to find her child, as glimpsed by the people she meets along the way. "Her story is in the hands of others" as the author himself has put it. A truck driver, a chess player, an alpine guide, a poet-thief, a film researcher, a blind man - otherwise unconnected lives linked by the thread of one woman's journey. Determined to be reunited with her son, who has been taken to Berlin by his German father, she leaves her job as a maid in a Tunisian hotel and travels across Europe as an illegal immigrant.
I found it to be quite a far-fetched tale in every sense - at one point, for example, she appears to be trying to cross the alps on foot. Also, the narration style never changes, so the voices of the characters are not distinct - although their view of the events they describe certainly is.
Only in the final part of the book do we get to hear her version of the story and see her perspective on the events previously described by those other characters. Was their testimony the truth? The whole truth? How can we ever know what the whole truth is? And how much truth can we handle anyway?
This is a book full of questions. "What are we supposed to see? What is it we are supposed to think?" the blind man asks regarding a disturbing photograph found in his late father's wardrobe. What indeed. Perhaps, as the woman herself observes: "the only way to get through where we are from one day to the next is to think of where we are as a better place."
At its heart this is a story of the quiet determination of a mother to go anywhere and do anything to be with her child, so Hand Me Down World may resonate more with women readers than men, but will doubtless give reading groups plenty to talk about. I'd like to suggest that such groups also consider reading A Seventh Man - John Berger and Jean Mohr's recently re-published book about migrant workers - as a companion piece.