‘He had seen more and more people from the East in recent years. Mostly gypsies, people said. Bulgarians, Romanians — you could tell by the plates on the vans and the trailers. The Poles had been around for some time already. Burglaries, thefts. The blessings of the new Europe.’
Paul Krüzen lives with his father in an old farmhouse, not far from the German border. Where once his father took care of him, now he takes care of his father. It has been a long time since his beautiful, worldly-wise mother left them for the arms of a Russian pilot, never once looking back.
Paul’s world is changing: his small Dutch village is now home to Chinese restaurateurs, Polish plumbers, and Russian thugs. Saint Rita, the patron saint of lost causes, watches over Paul and his best friend Hedwiges, two misfits at odds with the modern world, while Paul takes comfort in his own Blessed Rita, a prostitute from Quezon. But even she cannot protect them from the tragedy that is about to unfold.
In this sharply observed, darkly funny novel, Wieringa shines a light on people struggling at the margins of a changing world. The Blessed Rita is an affecting tribute to those left behind and an ode to those wanting to transcend themselves and their heritage.
‘The masterful The Blessed Rita is at once both The Great Twente Novel and completely European … The Blessed Rita tells the story of a shrinking life in a shrinking region — but Wieringa’s version of that familiar story feels like the ultimate one. Because: it’s described in flawless bulls-eyes of sentences that are rich in metaphor and symbolism, but which don’t cross over into melodrama. Precisely for that reason, they evoke associations with the style of Wieringa’s literary role model James Salter … Wieringa displays his full abilities as a storyteller and manages them masterfully … In the end this story is not just about big themes like shrinking regions, xenophobia or the revenge of the man-driven-into-dire-straits, but Wieringa also concerns himself with the people — he brings the big story back down to human proportions. The novels ends with a surprisingly tender and tragic note — Wieringa doesn’t only show it, he lets you feel it.’ FIVE STARS
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‘It is his best book, his master hand has developed itself again. The depth is deeper, the views stretch farther. His style approaches perfection, or surpasses it. His use of figurative language is economical. It’s used only when it’s dead-on.’ FIVE STARS
‘Wieringa said this novel “cost blood, sweat and tears”, but there is not a single moment in which you feel that four year struggle. The way in which he reconciles the tragedy of the “bumpkins” with a literary tumble in wet spring grass is astonishing. At the same time, when it comes to content, you aren’t left with empty hands: migration is a burning issue, and lives that hopelessly run aground and are beyond saving transcend the ages. Just like this novel.’ FIVE STARS
‘Tommy Wieringa demonstrates with The Blessed Rita that he belongs in the pantheon of Dutch literature. Amidst all of the desolation, compassion proves to be the dominant tone … Wieringa’s personal involvement can be felt in everything. Being familiar with the landscapes, the colours and the light, he brings the region stirringly to life … With an equally masterful precision he describes the leaden grey lives of his characters. In a vortex of tragicomic scenes he paints the desolation and the deadlock of life at the edge of the abyss. No one can save these hopeless causes, not even their patron saint Rita. And yet they can count on our sympathy, so convincing is the compassion that Wieringa evokes … More than just the story of a lost man, this is a portrait of a time in which those who can’t keep up, lose out. A lament for those left behind, and an ode to two clumsy men who despite the disappointment keep taking care of one another.’
‘In terms of style and imagery, Wieringa’s best book … Wieringa’s style in The Blessed Rita is more powerful and concentrated than ever … Though you can hear the writer speaking warily through his characters about the new times, in which the animals have disappeared from the pastures, in which the sick are only interested in their smartphones, it doesn’t wallow in nostalgia. The Blessed Rita is an ode to the Twente region, but above all it is a funny and moving plea for compassion. Compassion for those who are rooted and no longer able to move in a rapidly developing world – the hopeless causes.’
‘With a good eye for remarkable stories and sharp dialogues, Wieringa sketches an inky black portrait of a meagre emotional life and a perverse small-town culture.’
‘Tommy Wieringa writes about his hopeless causes with empathy; he looks at them with old, wise eyes; he does them justice.’ [Book of the Month]
‘The Blessed Rita is a wonderfully beautiful book, even without the plot-driven apotheosis.’
‘An ode to the silent ones of the Twente region.’ FOUR STARS
‘With Tommy Wieringa you expect a masterpiece, just as you did with writers like Willem Elsschot. And he never disappoints.’
De Nieuwsbv. NPO Radio 1
‘A tragicomedy of Joe Speedboat-calibre, on village souls lost amidst the modern times and the poignant clumsiness of male friendships. A wonderful novel.’