How much do you care about the truth? How far are you willing to go to uncover the truth? Conversely, how far are you willing to cover up a lie? These are just some of the questions that this multi-layered complex book tries to answer.
This book is the story of Isabel Azuera, who is an aged anthropologist, and her family. At the age of 69, she suddenly announces to her family that she is heading to Guatemala. While in Guatemala, an accident happens, and it is reported to her family back in Spain that she is dead.
However, it is clear from the outset that she isn't: after all, she is one of the two narrators of the book. There has been a case of mistaken identity, but if you're an anthropologist whose field of study is funerals and death rites of various peoples around the world, wouldn't faking one's death be the perfect etude for studying how one's family reacts to one's death?
So yes, Isabel is dead, from the perspective of her family, but in reality, she is well and alive in Guatemala. The other narrator of the book is her daughter Serena, who is dealing with the death of her mother, in addition to her own lies. As the book unravels, with the narrative being bounced from Isabel to Serena and back, the reader discovers the various lies that were made to sustain the whole family. And somehow, in the course of the novel, the reader (in this case, me) is made to reconsider whether lying is really a bad thing or not.
Because seriously, would you rather lie, if by doing so, it buys you peace of mind? If by doing so, it gives you cultural stability? If by doing so, it preserves your sanity? If by doing so, you can explain personal historical events that would otherwise have no explanation?