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Didi Drobna: Als die Kirche den Fluss überquerte.

de     en     fr     es     tr

When the Church Traversed the River.
Novel.
Munich: Piper Verlag, 2018.

ISBN: 978-3-492-05920-6.

Didi Drobna

Reading Sample

A father and mother separate. This event challenges many children. Sometimes the children are very young, left grappling with the implications; other times children are old enough to have their own partners and families. Daniel is already a young adult, when—after a summer holiday—his father decides to leave his wife, son, and daughter. As a result, the family members need to come to terms with the new situation. The 30-year-old author, Didi Drobna, narrates her novel from young Daniel's perspective. She describes how he takes on the role of the man, the protector of the family. He feels responsible above all for his sister Laura, although she is two years older than him. Drobna introduces a colorful family to her readers: along with Daniel's father, mother and the (adult) children there is also his hipster second cousin Miriam, and Uncle Billy, the ever-partying bachelor. These two both become important caregivers for Daniel, while he wrestles with the new situation. The protagonist seems lost and even helpless in his new role: he is pining for love. During this time of emotional confusion, he develops inappropriate feelings for his sister. After a turbulent family evening with plenty of alcohol, the family becomes even more unhinged when he makes sexual advances toward her. As a result, Laura moves in with her father in the city. Daniel stays with his passive mother, who is struggling with her own problems. His second cousin Miriam and Uncle Billy are the ones who take Daniel under their wings and try to offer him guidance, someone to lean on, or simply a diversion.

Didi Drobna, born in Bratislava in 1988 and now living in Vienna, interweaves her main narrative with numerous flashbacks to give the reader insight into the family's back-story. Individual episodes from Daniel's childhood are pieced together like a mosaic. Some of these chapters could stand alone as short stories. Large portions of the book take place in a rural setting, a locale that doesn't make things any easier for the protagonist. When the mother grows more and more confused, the incident with Laura gets pushed into the background. The mother's diagnosis with dementia from Parkinson's disease comes as a shock, a verdict that reunites at least the brother and sister and allows them to reconcile.

In her novel, Didi Drobna wins over her readers with her language and sensitivity, weaving tragic situations with subtle humor time and time again. She is a careful observer, and is successful at depicting the most every-day situations both pointedly and meticulously. This is an utterly successful coming-of-age novel.

Review by Emily Walton, September 24, 2018
English translation by Hillary Keel

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