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A beautiful and touching collection of stories, Floating in My Mother’s Palm invokes a small town on the Rhein in post-war Germany. The book is driven by characters, from the all-too recognizable neighbor resting her elbows on a pillow as she gazes out the window all day long to the dwarf librarian who fuels the town’s gossip mill. Although described as a novel, the stories are fairly disjointed, with each one focusing on different characters and situations until we emerge at the end with an idea of the town’s inhabitants. We examine closely, then draw away a bit and find ourselves with a full and vibrant picture.

The narrator is a young girl, varying in age from not quite born in the first story, to a teenager at the end. As she discusses the world she grew up in and the people she knew, she herself is strongly influenced by her adventurous artist mother, who is constantly painting images of the town just as Hanna, the narrator, paints the town in words. It is clear in the end that she is her mother’s daughter – impulsive, sometimes rash, yet caring and with an eye for the beautiful and the unseen.

Each character and story is memorable, as is the town itself. The picture, hazy at first, becomes clearer and clearer as the same vistas are evoked in different stories and moods, until the whole town is built solidly in your mind.

A lovely book which I will surely revisit in the future.

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