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This autobiographical novel which the author refers to as a “free reconstruction” centers around two traumatic events: the kidnapping and execution of the author’s grandfather by members of a Basque separatist group in 1977, and the death of her mother from cancer in 2011. The events of 1977 are riveting and her mother’s battle is heart wrenching, but it is Ybarra’s reflective passages in which she comes to terms with these deaths that are the heart and soul of the novel. She is a wise and talented writer who has lived under the shadow of death her whole life and who knows first-hand how it alters the lives of survivors. It is a book for our age as we deal with global terrorism, racism, and violence (“In those days I still believed that premature death belonged to the realm of fiction. Now I believe that the standard is to die before ones time”). It is about the honest, raw feelings of those to whom we endlessly direct our thoughts and prayers.— From Jeanne's Picks
Longlisted for the 2018 Man Booker International Prize
The Dinner Guest is Gabriela Ybarra's prizewinning literary debut: a singular autobiographical novel piecing together the kidnap and murder of her grandfather by terrorists, reflecting on the personal impact of private pain and public tragedy.
The story goes that in my family there's an extra dinner guest at every meal. He's invisible, but always there. He has a plate, glass, knife and fork. Every so often he appears, casts his shadow over the table, and erases one of those present.
The first to vanish was my grandfather.
In 1977, three terrorists broke into Gabriela Ybarra's grandfather's home, and pointed a gun at him in the shower. This was the last time his family saw him alive, and his kidnapping played out in the press, culminating in his murder.Ybarra first heard the story when she was eight, but it was only after her mother's death, years later, that she felt the need to go deeper and discover more about her family's past.
The Dinner Guest is a novel with the feel of documentary non-fiction. It connects two life-changing events--the very public death of Ybarra's grandfather, and the more private pain as her mother dies from cancer and Gabriela cares for her. Devastating and luminous, the book is an investigation, marking the arrival of a talented new voice in international fiction.