A woman named Amanda lies in a fever in a rural hospital clinic, A young boy, David sits beside her. She’s not his mother. He’s not her child.
David is prompting Amanda to recount the events that led to her illness, constantly pushing her to fix on the ‘important moment’, the moment when the ‘worms’ got in. Yet for Amanda what is important is where her young daughter Nina is. She talks a lot about the ‘rescue distance’, something most parents are constantly measuring and recalibrating as their children grow. How far away from you are they? Are they close enough to rescue should danger befall them?
As David continues to push her, the horror of the thing that has befallen them is exposed, is there any way back through it? Can Amanda get back to being within rescue distance of Nina?
Samanta Schweblin is a fairly new voice on the Spanish literary scene, her short stories have won critical acclaim but this is her first novel. It was rightfully shortlisted for the Man Booker international prize as it is incredibly evocative. Reading it you feel like you are in a fever dream, nothing is quite where it should be and memories are more vivid than the world around you. This lends itself perfectly to the strange, creeping, psychological menace.
I can’t tell you more of the plot without ruining it for you, but I would definitely recommend you read it if you like books that are a bit weird and that don’t necessarily tie up every loose end for you. This is like that, it’s a melody in a minor key that will keep surfacing in your mind like a memory of illness and loss. It is a tale of maternal love and the power and desperation of family.
Some praise must also go to the translator Megan McDowell.
NB I received a free copy of this book through NetGalley in return for an honest review. The BookEaters always write honest reviews.