Elena Knows




After Rita is found dead in the bell tower of the church she used to attend, the official investigation into the incident is quickly closed. Her sickly mother is the only person still determined to find the culprit.

Chronicling a difficult journey across the suburbs of the city, an old debt and a revealing conversation, Elena Knows unravels the secrets of its characters and the hidden facets of authoritarianism and hypocrisy in our society.



The ending was unexpected, I actually had to stop reading to catch my breath. The whole book is building up on the reader’s anticipation for the unveiling of what really happened to Rita, and what actually happened blew me away.

It is marketed as a crime/thriller, but it isn’t just that. Elena Knows is really about 2 characters. Elena and Rita, about a mother and daughter, about a caregiver and a patient, and how their relationship is so strained because of Elena’s illness. 

From the beginning, we know Rita is dead and Elena suspects foul play. Elena is sure that her daughter would never commit suicide and is hellbent on finding the person who killed her daughter. But then we are thrown into dual perspectives, one into Elena’s past while Rita was alive, and another into the present where Elena is searching for answers. Elena and Rita’s relationship is complex and almost painful to read. 

Elena is a great character. She isn’t likeable, but rather is rude and crass. We as readers get insights to her frustration, her fears and her stubbornness. After getting Parkinson’s disease, we see how it has completely shaped her reality. She is in a constant state of struggle, and because of that, she is pretty much always miserable. Elena also has a very specific voice in the story, making it easy to separate her from other characters, which I realise many other authors have a very hard time doing. But Pineiro has made it so that Elena’s is very distinct. Her thoughts are claustrophobic and limited.

I love this raw display of Parkinson’s disease. It is harrowing, brutal and empathetic. We see first hand how Parkinson’s has rendered Elena almost in this dying state, and has to rely heavily on Rita. It is such a cruel circumstance to be in, especially with people already treating her like she is dead.

We also get a look at Rita and learn she is insufferable. She is so miserable because of her situation, and yet we cannot blame her. We get some caregiver representation and the sacrifices they have to take care of another person. You can feel Rita’s anger, but also her exhaustion. She just feels so tired of everything, including her mother.

It is a book about unhappy people suffering others, and who feels that their suffering justifies their horrible actions. There is no happy ending for any of the characters, but the ending still feels satisfying and deserved.

I loved the themes of female body autonomy, motherhood, self reflection, an ableist society and resentment. It’s filled with desperation and helplessness. It is a complex read packed with so many different themes and ideas.

I didn’t round it up to 5 stars as the pacing was slow at certain points. I get that we are supposed to feel Elena’s frustration that everything is slow for her, but it got to the point that it was affecting my enjoyment of the story.

It was heartbreaking, gripping and powerful. After finishing the whole story, the sadness I felt after reading it was piercing. It would be one of my favourites, but the sadness I felt reading it is too overwhelming. I would honestly recommend this to anyone looking for a packed but short read, or literally anyone who wants to start reading books that tackle heavier themes.


Book Details

Published: 13 July 2021
Page Count: 153 pages


Content Warning Summary

  • Suicide
  • Chronic illness
  • Death