Central to this memoir is the death of the author’s mother. Three story lines are woven together; the first is set in a small town in Colombia in the 1950s and tells how Páramo’s mother met and became entranced by a sweet-talking man who turned out to be poor father and even worse husband. The second story, set in Colombia’s capital of Bogotá a few decades later, tells of the Páramo’s life as the youngest of five siblings under a strict and devoutly Christian mother. The final story takes place after the death of Páramo’s mother, the author’s reunion with her siblings in Colombia, and the process of accepting her mother’s death. A backdrop to the narrative is the political conflicts that disrupted life in Colombia during the last century, conflicts that resulted in senseless violence and fear for everyday people.
Sometimes it seems that authors struggle with weaving stories together, resulting in books that seem erratic and disorganized. My Mother’s Funeral, however, is well-designed and thought-out. It was easy to keep each story line straight, and what’s more, each story line was equally compelling.
Carmen, the author’s mother, I found to be the most relateable person in the book. Though often domineering, her love for her children shines through it. She is the epitome of a loving mother, and I think many readers will recognize their own mothers in her. What’s more, she’s someone most women can easily sympathize with, having survived heartbreak of the worst kind and come out stronger for it. She sounds like a remarkable woman that I would have loved to meet. In an interview for The Latino Author, Páramo said the following about her relationship with her mother:
I did a lot of crying while writing My Mother’s Funeral. My mother and I had a special bond. It was one that covered a wide spectrum of emotions. Our bond was volatile, mean-spirited, crazy, possessive, complex, loving and in this truth about the nature of motherly love, I recognized the irrefutable truth of my own role as a mother: that my daughter and I will love, dislike, resent, possess, manipulate and drive each other crazy, but underneath the stage on which our differences and conflicts take place there is an unshakable, formidably sturdy foundation of nothing but sheer love. This goes to prove that my mother was right after all. She used to say, “no hay amor mas verdadero que el amor de madre.”
A small piece of criticism is the number of Spanish words and phrases that Páramo left untranslated. I’m lucky enough to have majored in Spanish and spent time living in Spain, but for those who do not have those language skills, getting into the book may be difficult. Fortunately, the excessive number of untranslated items tapers after the first third of the book, making the majority of the book easy for anyone to enjoy.
I think just about anyone could find something about this book that they like. It’s great for fans of history, South American culture, memoirs, and stories about family relationships. Páramo’s voice throughout is clear and shining, and together with a strong story line and engaging characters, she has created a piece of literature that is significant and valuable.
My Mother’s Funeral is available now from CavanKerry Press.