How well do we know our mothers outside of their role as our nurturers? Leila Cobo offers an interesting take on this question when twenty-four-year-old Gabriella, whose mother has been dead since she was three, finds the diary her mother began writing for her and then for herself while visiting her grandmother in Columbia. Gabriella, whose maternal grandparents were patricians in a small town in Columbia, was raised in L.A. by her movie-making, beautiful Hollywood father following her mother’s death in a plane crash, but spends a month each year with her mother’s people. This trip is different, however, as, about to graduate from college, Gabriella feels compelled to push the limits and finds herself less and less satisfied with the mother about whom she has been told. She becomes involved with the son of a mafioso and continues to see him against the wishes of her grandmother. Her headlong passion makes her more understanding when she finds her mother’s diary and begins reading about her adulterous relationship with another Columbian bad-boy. The diary ends without making clear what decision her mother had made: to stay in Columbia with her lover or come home to LA and her husband and daughter. Gabriella finds the lover in her quest for the truth and is confronted with the demon of time as she tries to reconcile the passionate exchanges recorded in the diary with the middle-aged, paunchy and balding man before her. In the end, Gabriella makes her own choice to leave the violent world of her mafioso lover and comes to peace with the fact that she will never know for sure what choice her mother was going to make, and the understanding that even her mother may not have known at the moment of her death.
Mother-daughter relationships are complex and, in women’s lit, often explored. Rebelling against a dead mother is no easier than against a living one, but the plot device here makes for an interesting read. The exotic setting in Columbia complete with mafiosos and their bodyguards does not hurt, either.