Waiting for Tomorrow
By Nathacha Appanah
Translated from the French by Geoffrey Strachan
Published 2015 (French); 2018 (English)
Read Dec 2018
This slim volume uses an interesting structure to tell the story of Anita, an immigrant from Maurituis and an aspiring journalist/writer, and Adam, “a woodcutter/ cabinetmaker/ painter/ surfer/marathon runner/ only son” and architecture student from the countryside of France. The opening section is entitled “Today” as is a chapter in each of the three parts. In these passages, we learn a small bit of their future state—Adam is in jail, Anita is at home with daughter Laura, who is now confined to a wheelchair, and someone named Adele drowned the same day as Laura’s accident. Through three parts Appanah tells Adam and Anita’s story—how they met, their early days falling in love in Paris, moving to Adam’s home province, Anita’s ambivalence about being a stay-at-home spouse who originally had different ambitions, their struggles to juggle two careers while raising a small child, their desires to retrieve what they once had as a young couple in love with their artistic paths still open. We eventually meet Adele and slowly learn her story and how that story becomes engaged with Anita and Adam. I won’t give away more here.
Appanah uses little dialogue but rather relies on beautiful descriptions of her character’s thoughts and their encounters during their days to paint pictures of Anita and Adam and their travel through life together and as individuals. Her approach managed to show me their struggles and progress—I didn’t feel she was merely “telling” me, something that dialog often accomplishes.
It’s apparent the paths Anita and Adam are taking are going to result in a collision of some sort. The “Today” passages spell out the result of that collision but Appanah effectively delays disclosure of its details to very near the end. Appaneh leaves the future ambiguous. She also leaves the reader with the dilemma to decide how they now feel about these characters whose struggles they have witnessed and whose futures this reader hoped would be closer to the ones they were beginning to track towards.