cover image The Scent of Your Breath

The Scent of Your Breath

Rebecca Kai Dotlich, , trans. by Shaun Whiteside. . Grove Atlantic/Black Cat, $12 (130pp) ISBN 978-0-8021-7022-4

A breathless autobiographical second novel by this bright young Sicilian writer (100 Strokes of the Brush Before Bed ) explores a young woman's riveting, cataclysmic conflict between maternity and romantic passion. The 19-year-old protagonist, an author and recognizable media personality, leaves her self-absorbed boyfriend, Claudio, for a feminine young man she loves helplessly. The "you" she addresses in this first-person narrative is not the lover, Thomas, however, but her mother, who acts as the author's emotional guardian and nemesis. Her narrative jumps erratically from tender scenes with Thomas ("He imprisoned my breath in a glass jar, and sniffs it every time he makes love to me") to formative memories of growing up part of her mother's clan in Catania. A miscarriage adds to her "orgy of feelings," and the narrative becomes increasingly hallucinatory as her grief over losing the baby deepens, and jealousy for Thomas grips her in a kind of frenzy. The narrative forms a current of pure feeling, fearless and thrilling. (Aug.)