ALMARINA by Valeria Parrella
Translated by Alex Valente
Elisabetta is still mourning the death of her husband. A keen swimmer, he went out into the sea one day, and swam until his heart exploded. He was fished out, lifeless, and she was left drowned in grief. Each day she throws herself together and heads to Nisida, a small island off the coast of Naples, where she teaches kids at the juvenile detention centre. Mostly, the job simply serves to pass the time. Until she meets Almarina, a Romanian refugee, a survivor of unspeakable horrors.
Through Almarina, Elisabetta seeks salvation. She pays the girl extra attention, takes her on day trips and, eventually, tries to adopt her. The metaphor is there for a taking: they create an island of safety within their shared island of pain. Parrella writes with genuine warmth, and the whole thing is very sweet and kind-hearted. But for me the sentimentality tended towards treacle. I enjoyed it enough, but I kept an eye on my insulin pump and gave myself a fair few extra hits along the way.
Almarina by Valeria Parrella (Tr. Alex Valente)
John Murray, 2022