Even though I went into Elena Knows without any expectations, Claudia Piñeiro still somehow ended up not being what I expected. Where you might expect a simple murder mystery, this story eventually crawls itself a way into your heart to tug at the strings there.
Elena’s daughter died of alleged suicide three months ago by hanging herself from the bell tower of the church. Elena knows, however, it couldn’t have been suicide, and she means to find out who killed her daughter. But her worsening Parkinsons prevents her from investigating properly, as she can only move in short time frames between the medicine she takes throughout the day. Therefore she decides to travel across the city to ask the help of someone indebted to her and her daughter Rita.
“If it had been her who’d died, Rita would have been an orphan. What name does she have now that she’s childless?”
Being in Elena’s head while she struggles and fights against Parkinsons made me really feel the paralyzing powerlessness this illness brings. You cannot help but forgive her for her rude and dismissive attitude: who can blame her, when everyone treats her like her life is already over? When people show Elena some humanity when she finally gets insurance for her medical treatments, is when her humanity comes through as well: ‘Why are you crying?’ ‘Because they were kind, son.’ (at this point I was crying, too).
Elena’s complicated relationship with her daughter Rita, which is slowly revealed as the story progresses, starts making more and more sense when you realize that a chronic illness does not only affect the bearer of that illness, but also the people that are close to them. The revelation at the end, which is extremely relevant in current times, strengthens the question we ask ourselves through the book: what do we owe ourselves and our loved ones, when our own body turns itself against us?
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