“Elena Knows” Review

The cover is yellow with the profile of a woman in blue looking to the left. There's what looks like a chair over the profile - the seat and back of the chair are in red and then the legs are in blue and end up being part of the profile. The title, author's name and translator's name are the top left corner of the cover. Written by Claudia Piñeiro (Translated by Frances Riddle)
Published in English by Church Press, July 2021
Originally published in 2007 in Argentina
158 pages
Completed: April 30, 2023

“After Rita is found dead in the bell tower of the church she used to attend, the official investigation into the incident is quickly closed. Her sickly mother is the only person still determined to find the culprit. Chronicling a difficult journey across the suburbs of the city, an old debt and a revealing conversation, Elena Knows unravels the secrets of its characters and the hidden facets of authoritarianism and hypocrisy in our society.”

One more book for the Disability Readathon, which fits the last of the reading prompts – “Read a translation”.

This book is one of those complicated ones because as it turns out the characters aren’t very likable and that’s the point. Both Elena and Rita are rather mean spirited people who judge others and the whole book centers around Elena’s assumptions about her daughter. The book explores mother-daughter relationships, abortion rights, religion and disability – and it’s not nice about any of them. There are several disturbing things that happen in this book that have everything to do with how women’s bodies are treated.

The formatting was a bit difficult as the book is entirely Elena’s thoughts as she goes about her day and flashbacks to past conversations but it’s almost walls of text with the dialogue not evenly spaced out. I’m not sure if that’s a translator choice or the original author.

There’s an afterward at the end of the book that gives a bit more context about the author and the themes of the book. I’m glad that was there to get a deeper understanding of the author and the intent of the book. I’m probably going to check out the author’s other works as a result.