A man could learn all he needed to know just by watching nature at work … Everything, if you could learn to hear and see what nature had to tell and show.”
This is unlike any book that I have ever read before and I am fast becoming one of Selva Almada’s biggest fans! Published by Charco Press, I highly recommend Almada’s debut title “The Wind That Lays Waste” … read more to find out why!
In this book, four juxtaposing characters wind up together as a result of particular circumstances – was this simply chance or part of God’s plan? The four characters are; Reverend Pearson who is on an Evangelising tour with his resistant daughter Leni who meet atheist mechanic, Gringo Brauer and his assistant, a boy called Tapioca.
Whilst on his tour with Leni, the Reverend’s car breaks down leaving their fate in the hands of Gringo and Tapioca who endeavour to fix the car at their nearby Garage. The interactions between the four characters are initially mysterious, but later, secrets are shared and overall, these communications are merely the calm before the storm – both physically and symbolically.
Although to some readers it may seem that nothing much happens between the characters against the rural Argentinian backdrop, this is simply not the case. Almada explores the power of religion, belief and innocence, alongside the strength of family and impact of resistance. The true treasure of this book can be found between the lines, under the guise of what the characters say and the experiences they share. In this book the combination of a staunch believer through the Reverend paralleled with atheist Gringo allows for interesting interactions. Tensions ebb and flow throughout the book, leaving the reader gripped, but this conflict of interest eventually leads to ‘the inevitable storm.’
Based over the course of one day, the characters are effortlessly developed by Almada who makes use of multiple points of view in her narration. The perspective changes – often paragraph by paragraph – and the effect of this is expertly captured by translator, Chris Andrews. In this book, a whole chapter is dedicated to the sense of smell from the perspective of a dog. This may sound unusual, but the depth of description relayed in these few pages is vivid and captivating for the reader.
Almada is a poetic writer and, having discussed her work with Carolina from Charco Press, we spoke of how her words transport you to another place entirely. I managed to finish this book over the course of two days, only putting it down to work – I could have easily eaten up the whole story in one sitting. However, this is more than a story and should be properly digested by the reader. The book is sensual, unpredictable and captures some important themes which should be reflected upon once read.
What is death but the same dark, empty nothing, regardless of the hand that deals it?
Having read and reviewed an Advanced Reading Copy of Selva Almada’s upcoming ‘Dead Girls‘ I simply could not wait to read more of her work. This book – her debut – did not disappoint! Her writing is fluid, poetic and clear. Her messages are symbolic and expertly depicted through the characters she so well develops.
I highly recommend this book – let me know if you order it; I’d love to hear what you think!