Between the title and the cover art, Sandra Perez Gluschankoff has us asking tantalizing questions about Franzisca’s Box (CLICK ON THE IMAGE TO BUY) before we read a word. Who is Franzisca, and what does she have in that box? What does the key open? We want to know immediately, don’t we? I sure did. As it turns out, we have to work a bit for the answers. But we work side by side with protagonist Sofia who has an enormous amount at stake, and she’s definitely worth spending time with.
Sofia’s grandmother, her beloved abuela, has just died, and it’s up to Sofia to straighten out her complicated affairs. The abuela, Claudia Lazar, is rich. Her past and the source of her fortune is murky. Just how Sofia is to set things aright not at all apparent. Add to this the emotional components, such as the long-lived alienation of Sofia’s from her mother, abuela’s daughter, and you have a rich stew of conflict right off. And there is more to come.
The fact that Sofia calls her grandma abuela sets us up for a Spanish-speaking context, doesn’t it? Well, yes. And no. The spelling “Sofia” works for Spanish, but it also works for where the story takes us next. I’ll hint that the spelling “Franzisca” is a clue, but won’t to insert more of a spoiler than that. Well, except to say that it involves WWII and Jewish horrors.
Suffice it to say that Sofia’s long-held notion that Franzisca is a fictional character her abuela created for her childhood delight turns out to be dead wrong. As do many of her other assumptions about who she and her family are and where they come from. Underlying each of the myriad layers of discovery and truth that await both Sofia and us readers as the search proceeds are knotty and complex questions of good and evil, of pragmatism and idealism, of conscience and compromise. There is unadulterated villainy in Franzisca’s Box, but it is not nearly as important or significant to my mind as the dynamics among the characters who are forced to contend with it. When you look evil in the face, what do you do and how do you do it? And what about love? Can you hang on to it amid utter corruption and challenges to your core values? Sofia’s got some problems to solve. Whether she solves them all or not may be open to question, but she carries on with courage and resolve that keeps us rooting and agonizing for her.
The answers to the questions she confronts are what await us inside Franzisca’s box, and the keys on the cover? They open the way to a plethora of answers while they leave a plethora of others waiting somewhere on the horizon. Though the narrative occasionally bogs down in extended back story and character description, its an amazingly original and successful tale.. I love stories that leave such a tantalizing lack of resolution even after the last word of the last sentence of the last paragraph is done. Good luck, Sofia.