Daniel Nemet-Nejat
July 13, 2007 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Mario, a bureaucrat in a provincial Spanish town, suspects that his pampered, emotionally unstable wife has been replaced by an impostor, one who is more accommodating and affectionate than his real spouse. The setup in Antonio Muñoz Molina’s In Her Absence is delicious — half borscht-belt joke, half Beckett. Molina doesn’t mine all of the satirical and surreal potential from his premise. But Mario’s contortions to win and keep Blanca — feigning interest in avant-garde culture, skipping work to clean and cook for her, and watching his every move — offer a wry, fresh take on the games people play in order to keep love alive. B+

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