I recently finished reading a book about the intersecting lives of people in a small Basque town before, during, and after a crime committed by young pro-Basque separatist group members.
The book, All That Followed, is the debut novel of Gabriel Urza, a public defender in Reno, Nevada. I came across the book in my library when looking for an e-book to read and both the description and the book cover caught me eye.
A psychologically twisting novel about a politically-charged act of violence that echoes through a small Spanish town; a dazzling debut in the tradition of Daniel Alarcón and Mohsin Hamid. It’s 2004 in Muriga, a quiet town in Spain’s northern Basque Country, a place with more secrets than inhabitants.
All That Followed has three narrators who tell the circular story from different perspectives. One of the narrators really intrigued me…
Mariana is a young mother who was raised in the town where the story takes place. Prior to the crime, she became very ill and subsequently received a kidney transplant.
As she heals from both the illness and the transplant, she feels her body changing in ways that are sometimes fantastical, sometimes disturbing, and always out of her control.
Mariana becomes obsessed with her new kidney, and, after lots of painstaking research, determines it is from a deceased member of a violent pro-Basque separatist group.
This is just a minor sub-theme in the book, but it was really quite interesting.
What starts her journey into finding her new kidney’s previous owner is that after over thirty years of tying her shoes one particular way, she suddenly starts tying them a new way.
Mariana talks with her friend Joni, who is from California, about it.
“I calculated that I have been tying my shoelaces an average of three times a day for thirty-two years. Thirty five thousand and forty times, always in the same manner: the squirrel runs around the tree, then through the hole and out the other side.”
“I think we learned a different technique in California,” I said. “I remember my mother teaching me the ‘bunny ears’ technique. A knot for the head, and then we add on the rabbit’s ears.”
“Yes!” she said. “The rabbit’s ears! Suddenly, after the squirrel has run around the tree thirty-five thousand and forty times, I begin to use the rabbit ears!”
How weird would that be? To start tying your shoes a new way after decades of just automatically tying them and not even thinking about it?
So that got me wondering how often people change after organ transplants. Do they change habits? Do they change personalities?
Off to Google I went.
And I found some amazing stories from Before It’s News…
One of the few cases we know the patient’s name was a woman called Claire Sylvia who received a heart and lung transplant in the 1970’s from an eighteen year old male donor who had been in a motorcycle accident. None of this information was known to Sylvia, who upon waking up claimed she had a new and intense craving for beer, chicken nuggets, and green peppers, all food she didn’t enjoy prior to the surgery.
A 47 year old man receiving a heart from a 17 year old black boy suddenly picked up an intense fondness for classical music. The boy whose heart had been donated was killed in a drive-by shooting, still clutching his violin case in his hands. A 47 year old transplant patient claimed that his new heart was responsible for a sudden onset of eating disorders, heralded from the heart’s previous owner, a 14 year old girl. Once a change in sexual orientation was even documented in a twenty seven year old lesbian who soon after getting a new heart settled down and married a man.
The most stunning example of cellular memory was found in an eight year old girl who received the heart of a ten year old girl. The recipient was plagued after surgery with vivid nightmares about an attacker and a girl being murdered. After being brought to a psychiatrist her nightmares proved to be so vivid and real that the psychiatrist believed them to be genuine memories. As it turns out the ten year old whose heart she had just received was murdered and due to the recipients violent reoccurring dreams she was able to describe the events of that horrible encounter and the murderer so well that police soon apprehended, arrested, and convicted the killer.
Is it true? Haven’t got a clue, but it’s fascinating to think about.
My favorite story was about a 30-something man who was concerned about becoming more feminine after receiving a female heart. Later he said he didn’t change at all, but his girlfriend said that his lovemaking techniques changed a lot. “It’s almost like he knew exactly what I wanted him to do…” <3