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Review | 'All My Goodbyes'

Memories, murder and commitment issues haunt marvelous debut

At the age of 23, the unnamed narrator in Argentinian writer Mariana Dimopulos’ terrific debut English novel “All My Goodbyes,” abruptly leaves Buenos Aires, her potential career as a scientific researcher, and her odd physicist father, in order to travel in a “simple and erratic circle across the globe.”

For the next 10 years the narrator (who calls herself Lola in Barcelona, Luisa in Malaga) juts from to Spain to Germany to Tunisa, searching for a place to call home. But she repeatedly torpedoes her own efforts: after she falls in love and marries the kind-hearted Alexander, she boards a train. After securing legal work status and planning a life with Julia and her young son Kolya, she packs two bags and leaves in the middle of the night.

“Once the last door has closed, once we’ve survived the last victory, we board the train or a taxi or a tram and we deliver ourselves to an age-old chagrin, forged in gold and silver, that we cherish like a precious coin. The new is always the same.”

After her father dies, the narrator makes her way back to Buenos Aires, but this city, too, cannot retain its hold and she slips down south to Patagonia for work on a berry farm. It is here, in a small farm house where she’s regularly visited by dogs and sheep, that she finally allows herself to feel a sense of rootedness. But once she decides to stay, two gruesome murders propel her back into a tailspin, causing her to reflect back on travels, loves, and all her previous goodbyes, which she refers to as her “crimes.”

Beautifully written and expectantly structured, “All My Goodbyes” weaves together the narrator’s various memories and trials in a pattern not beholden to geography or linear time. This unusual juxtaposition of stories and quick slips of memory results in some surprising emotional punches, as well as larger questions surrounding the nature of memory and our human desire for connection.

A novel that is both scientific in its distance and philosophical in its insight, “All My Goodbyes” is a marvelous, introspective work.

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