Falling Is Like Flying
Falling Is Like Flying by Manon Uphoff, translation: Sam Garrett
(Pushkin Press, 2021, 192 pages)
When her older sister, hungry and dehydrated, falls down the stairs and dies, a spark of anger is ignited in the author. The death of Henne Vuur, once her ‘shadow-mother’, forces her to face a horrible and terrifying past.
Layer by layer, with anecdotes and atmospheric portraits, Uphoff constructs the hall of mirrors of her youth. She takes us back to a house full of children — her half-sisters, brothers, little sister Libby and herself (as MM or ‘the undersigned’). Uphoff encircles the father figure, or ‘the Minotaur’ as she calls him, with fairy-tale language, only to speak out loud and clear when she tells the story of her half-sister, who grows up to marry a man who abuses their children. In a newspaper interview, Uphoff says: ‘I had to develop a new vocabulary. There were only limited dichotomies, such as victim and perpetrator, but they don’t do justice to the fabric, to the fact that everything is interconnected and embedded in the silent society.’ Falling is Like Flying is a novel rooted in reality about an ever-expanding, painful past. Manon Uphoff manages to present a quest for love and identity in a way that is harsh, yet poetic, with power and humor.