Editorial Review: The Sins of Mrs. Ema by Mirela Kanini
The Sins of Mrs. Ema, by Mirela Kanini, is an introspective and dramatic romance story, but also a wide-ranging vibrant character study. Ema is a talented psychologist, but analyzing our own emotions and motives is always the most difficult, isn’t it? She blends her psychological background with thoughtful introspection as she narrates her experiences and choices.
Ema’s entire life is thrown into upheaval when she meets and falls in love with Toni. She hasn’t had romance or love in her life, but she has had professional success. Her husband, with whom she shares a comfortable home, considerable wealth, and a beloved daughter, is not the man of her dreams. He’s not even a particularly good husband, he’s just… there. Instead of romantic love, the familiarity and their mutual love for their daughter seem to hold them together. This is where we see the conflict creeping in, as Ema is not free to follow her heart with a new love without caring for her daughter.
In reviewing her marriage and what brought her to this point in her life, readers discover Ema’s introspection. She wonders if most people are content with a good-enough marriage and if she’s lucky or cursed to find someone like Toni in such a situation. She considers what led her to her husband, and reviews the true joy she gets from motherhood and the satisfaction she gets from her career. Ema feels like a complicated, realistic human. Readers can really see how she was shaped by her experiences.
Ema and Toni’s meeting and love affair drastically changes Toni’s life, too. Desperate to be closer to Ema, he leaves everything he’s known to come to the US. Without friends, family or career, his move puts the lovers on unequal footing, introducing new conflicts into their intense love. While Ema worries about her family, her social reputation, and her professional career, Toni is alone in the country, working hard at under-the-table jobs, since he’s overstayed his tourist visa. These stressors test their relationship, and introduce new facets of their characters to readers. This is a truly fascinating story for readers of character-driven fiction. Their fights, reconciliations, and struggles over time develop both characters, until readers are nodding along, understanding exactly why Toni or Ema made a decision even if that decision leads to strain and stress.
This dive into Toni’s character, and into the other secondary characters, is a real strength of the book: Of course, Ema is the protagonist and the narrator, but her psych knowledge and sensitivities to emotions allow her to see and describe what other characters might think and feel. This doesn’t give the feel of an omniscient narrator, since lovestruck Ema is deeply biased in guessing Toni’s motives and other times her maternal care colors her descriptions of her family life, too. Instead, the whole novel feels like a sensitive friend is analyzing her loves and her family, as well as herself.
There’s a theme of personal discovery and happiness in life throughout Ema’s story. Ema is someone who feels all her emotions intensely, She can’t just go with the flow, as her dear friend Kris seems to do, accepting life without stress. Ema seems to understand the secret of true joy means suffering through sorrows and agonies, and we see all of this in this emotional novel.