Every so often, a book is so popular that it seems to appear in every magazine I pick up. Vogue, Marie Claire, Nylon and a whole host of newspapers have sung the praises of Umami. Set in Mexico City, Umami is a highly original and eccentric novel which takes a heart felt look at loss and how we experience grief at different ages.
Moving between the different characters who live in the houses that surround one courtyard, this is a fast-paced and engrossing read. All of the characters are unique and yet familiar. It is not often that I don’t have favourites within a novel with multiple narrative streams, but here I was interested in all of the characters, what they were feeling and what they were doing. The novel is rich in unique details and the characters all have their quirks, with dark touches throughout.
Ana is a twelve year old living in one of the houses with her parents and brother. Every summer she is sent away to stay with her grandmother in Michigan, but this year she persuades her parents to le her stay and build a garden. It is not just because she finds summers with her grandmother boring, Ana is dealing with the loss of her little sister and the way that her family has changed since her sisters death.
Across the street the owner of the houses, Alfonso, is dealing with his own grief but the loss of his wife is overshadowed by the far more dramatic death of a little girl. He is a quiet old man struggling to cope with the life left behind.
Jufresa creates a rich picture of lives being recreated. The ongoing struggle to cope with loss and make life worth living. All of the characters are imperfect and at the same time likeable. I was curious about them all. There are some very strange topics and events in the book, things that made me pause, that made me uncomfortable, yet they added an extra layer to the book.
I read this book very quickly, it was literally unputdownable. I wanted the book to last longer and I found the ending sad, leaving me wanting more and yet it was the right ending for the novel.
I can’t wait to read more from Laia Jufresa.