cover image Guesswork: A Reckoning with Loss

Guesswork: A Reckoning with Loss

Martha Cooley. Catapult, $16.95 trade paper (192p) ISBN 978-1-93678-746-3

Cooley’s (Thirty-Three Swoons) touching memoir recounts a year living in the rural Italian village of Castiglione del Terziere, a castle town, where—in the off-season—there are only a dozen or so residents. Cooley and her husband Antonio, both fiction writers and translators, take a leisurely approach to country living. Though the book begins as a love letter to Castiglione, it turns into an introspective family memoir. Cooley meditates on her parents’ deteriorating health and contemplates the deaths of friends—a “rabbit hole of loss”—that preceded her move to Italy. Once in Italy, she visits the Costa Concordia shipwreck, gets to know the other women in town, and becomes deeply familiar with the cats of Castiglione. In the midst of tragedy, Cooley finds solace in literature and poetry, quoting poets such as Zbigniew Herbert, T.S. Eliot, Walt Whitman, and Philip Larkin. Her devotion to her mother is intertwined with her devotion to literature. As her mother slowly goes blind, their shared love of reading, or listening to books, unites them. Like the ill-fated Costa Concordia, Cooley must learn to “steer amidst obstacles,” and though her passage is not always smooth, it is instructive and humanizing. [em](May) [/em]