Title: The Discomfort of Evening
Author: Marieke Lucas Rijneveld
Translated from the Dutch by Michele Hutchison
Publisher: Faber & Faber
Genre: Literary Fiction, Translations
What I thought to be a strange book when I started reading it, started growing on me way too soon. I see most reviewers calling it grim or gritty, but somehow it worked for me than most. It is a story of a family dislocated and destroyed by grief. It is the story of a family that hasn’t come to terms with their grief to even acknowledge it. The Discomfort of Evening by Marieke Lucas Rijneveld is a book that is definitely in my top 5 of the International Booker 2020 Longlist.
The narrator is a child (the trope is clearly established). She is ten-year-old Jas and doesn’t know what to do as her world crumbles. Jas is not your usual run-of-the-mill kid. She is different in the sense that there is a lot more emotional maturity to this child – the awareness of what has happened and how to hold on to dear life to not let it spiral her life out of control.
I thought I would not take to this book because of its sometimes not-so-pleasant descriptions, but that didn’t happen at all. If anything, it just led to the understanding of what grief can do to you. Jas navigates adolescence with her family and the burden of guilt and anxiety, as she believes she prayed to God to save her rabbit and take her brother instead, and that is what happened.
There is so much that goes on in this book but slowly. Every layer of grief, redemption, and how to live in a world without someone lends to what I felt when I lost a loved one. Jas’s voice is strong, and she says what she must. The translation by Michele Hutchison brings out the sense of place, culture, and how pain lingers, and with it, comfort also steps in to be found in the unlikeliest of places.