cover image Accabadora


Michela Murgia, trans. from the italian by Silvester Mazzarella. Counterpoint (PGW, dist.), $15.95 trade paper (208p) ISBN 978-1-61902-050-4

Set in 1950s Sardinia, Murgia’s lovely English-language debut tells the story of Bonaria Urrai, caretaker of the dying, and the life she tries to give to Maria, the unwanted six-year-old daughter of a widow. In the parlance of the Mediterranean isle, Bonaria is known as the accabadora, a word drawn from the Spanish acabar, which means “to finish or complete”; Maria is a fill’e anima, a “soul-child... born twice,” once “from the “poverty of one woman” and again in the care of another. Though Bonaria’s role is to comfort those on the cusp of death, she sometimes—with familial consent—brings about the end for “those who can’t bear to suffer anymore.” Maria, unaware of her adoptive mother’s sideline, takes up dressmaking and eventually attracts the attention of Andría Bastíu, son of local vintners. But when Andría reveals to Maria that Bonaria killed his crippled brother, a shocked Maria flees to Turin to start another new life. Yet despite Bonaria’s secrets, Maria cannot forget her kindness. A touching meditation on life and death and the power of love to bind, transcend, and let go. (Oct.)