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  • Writer's pictureThe Bossy Bookworm

Review of What You Can See from Here by Mariana Leky

Leky's book is full of magical realism, friends who are like family, some absurd, fablelike elements, and an ongoing exploration of mortality and of living a full life.

Selma has dreamed of an omen, an okapi (a real animal sometimes called a "forest giraffe"). The omen traditionally means that someone in her small West German village is about to die.

As each of her neighbors imagine that they may be destined to end their earthly stay, they struggle with unresolved issues, unspoken desires, secrets, and lies. Those around Selma work to quickly come to terms with their finite existence, and young and old members of the community consider their lives with new eyes.

Yet somehow the village's loss, when it does occur, takes everyone by surprise, and Selma's granddaughter, Luisa, is forever changed by the events that follow.

There are some absurd elements, magical realism, fables, superstition, and romance in this translation from Leky's original German coming-of-age story.

While there is extensive exploration of mortality in the text and there are allusions to intimacy, the tone of the book feels geared toward young people. Leky writes about love, loss, grief, and understanding in a lighthearted yet poignant way in What You Can See from Here.

I received a prepublication digital copy of this book courtesy of Farrar, Straus and Giroux and NetGalley.

Do you have any Bossy thoughts about this book?

None of Leky's other books have been translated from German into English.

What You Can See from Here reminded me somewhat in tone--and in its exploration of mortality --of Under the Whispering Door by T.J. Klune.


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