Words have long been used to categorise us and help explain our place in the world. But as Concita De Gregorio’s beautiful, beguiling novel The Missing Word makes clear, for parents who have lost a child there is no name: no label by which they might easily identify themselves or recognise others who have suffered a similar loss.
Irina, the woman whose real-life tragedy is explored in this highly-sensitive, deeply-intimate fictionalised reimagining, is one such individual, striving to define herself in a world turned suddenly, and horrifically, on its head. When her estranged husband abducts and likely murders their two children, Irina finds herself brutally stripped of the titles of wife, mother and lawyer that have characterised her for so long. Accused of having been too career-orientated by unsympathetic neighbours, and of being overly emotional by incompetent police officers whose poor handling of her case sees vital evidence overlooked, Irina now finds herself being described by a series of evermore reductive, overtly sexist epithets.
Delving deep beneath the surface of one woman’s grief to leave a lasting impression, this heartfelt novel offers itself up as a much-needed space – full of words of comfort and advice – for that as-of-yet nameless group of people who have existed without a voice for far too long.
The Missing Word, Concita De Gregorio [trans. Clarissa Botsford] (Europa Editions)
Price: £12.99/£10.99 Ebook. Info: here
words RACHEL REES
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