At some point months ago, I signed up for (and then forgot about) Open Letter Publishing’s Translator Triptych Bundle, which got me three Open Letter books written by Spanish female authors and translated by Katie Whittemore. I wrote about Mothers Don’t already. And I just finished Lara Moreno’s Wolfskin.
Like Mothers Don’t, this one focuses boldly on the interior lives of a mother, and the non-mother parts of that person, the parts that strain against the expectations of motherhood.
In Moreno’s novel, the everyday strain of being an independent fully formed person and a mother is exacerbated by a surprise—the protagonist Sofia is blindsided by her husband Julio’s wish for a divorce. “Wish” is not abrupt a word–more like “steps toward getting” a divorce. She thinks nothing of their regular marital spats or disagreements, and she thinks nothing when his toothbrush is missing one morning. When the conversation eventually happens, there’s little to discuss: He will leave their apartment, he will support her, and he has it all figured out—even with an apartment at the ready. Sofia, he assumes (correctly), need take care of their son Leo as if nothing has happened. Julio will carry on as if what has happened is precisely what he wants, which it is. Moreno renders this emotional turmoil in very relatable & shrewd detail. Tears, worry, unanswered texts, accusations, siblings and parents drawn into the separation, all while Sofia struggles to keep things normal—until she chooses instead to retreat to her recently deceased father’s home for the summer. That’s the opening thirty pages or so.
With this escape Moreno complicates our sense of what a good mother is, what an amicable separation should look like, what sibling support looks like, what stops and what continues when the disruption in our lives does not approach in sheep’s clothing, but instead when we realize that we let the wolf in willingly, we saw his skin all along.
I’d give away everything if I wrote more. Just know that Whittemore manages Moreno’s prose & the characters’ voices deftly, including shifting perspectives & timelines, as well as the sentences that unspool for a page or more when the emotions become … well, when it’s appropriate. Know it’s also a novel about sex, about trauma, about sisters, about innocence, about letting people in. Highly recommend for mature readers.