Thwarted ambition, cultural difference and the challenges of marriage and parenthood shatter the lives of four individuals in Nathacha Appanah’s “Waiting for Tomorrow.” This unflinching novel exposes the need for communication and creative work. A sharp translation from the French, this novel masterfully confronts themes that resonate internationally.
When Adam and Anita met in Paris, they were outsiders. He was an artist and architecture student from the provinces and she was a writer from Mauritius. Neither felt at home in the cosmopolitan city, but their struggles provided them with a common ground. Romance smoothed over the squalor of their daily life, but this shared condition didn’t grant them the vulnerability to truly reveal themselves to each other. Their inability to articulate their insecurities would create a ticking time bomb.
After returning to Mauritius to bury her father, Anita became pregnant with their daughter. As they became a family, their bohemian dreams faded. A return to Adam’s southwestern French hometown became a necessity — as did humbler aspirations of starting an architecture firm and being a stay-at-home mom, moonlighting as a stringer for the local paper. Their lives muted into a pattern of identical days.
While Anita and Adam unwillingly succumbed to domestic complacency, another character made it her sole ambition to hide. Adèle fled Mauritius after a personal tragedy. Erasing her name and disappearing from her homeland, she distanced herself from the person she once was, becoming an undocumented person, taking cash under the table as a nanny and barmaid.
Yet a chance meeting with Anita opened Adèle to the beauty of being known and being seen as she asks herself, “Does a single day like that suffice for one to say ‘enough’ and for one to end up, at last, by turning the page?”
As Adèle’s harrowing life story invigorated Adam and Anita’s dormant professional passions, her presence revived their marriage and family. Inspired to write a novel, Anita embraced the heritage she’d abandoned for assimilation and Adam found his muse for a series of paintings. For Adèle, their home became a haven, offering her a chance to live openly without anxiety. Theirs became an idyllic life of wildflowers, open arms and the union of art and life. However, as the lines between inspiration and appropriation blur, an unexpected transgression sours this short-lived bliss.
Although Appanah’s deft narrative cradles the bittersweet sadness at the center of the novel, one wishes that she would have lingered rather than raced to the novel’s conclusion. Despite that, her beautiful prose shines through this translation by Geoffrey Strachan, allowing her to lay bare the danger of words not spoken and the volatility of dreams denied.
Lauren LeBlanc is an independent book editor and writer, as well as a senior editor at Guernica magazine. A native New Orleanian, she lives in Brooklyn. Follow her on Twitter at @lequincampe.
Waiting for Tomorrow
By: Nathacha Appanah, translated from the French by Geoffrey Strachan.
Publisher: Graywolf Press, 156 pages, $16.