New fiction from the author of Asunder (2013) and Book of Clouds (2009).
In the late 1980s, Luisa is 17, about to graduate from a prestigious high school in Mexico City. A scholarship student and the child of two academics, she doesn’t fit in with the wealthy and aristocratic kids at her school. She finds her tribe among the outcasts who listen to Joy Division and The Cure. She finds her soul mate when the sullen, black-clad Tomás enters her life, and she finds her purpose when she reads a newspaper article about Ukrainian dwarfs who have run away from the circus on a tour of Mexico. Together, Luisa and Tomás run off to the seaside town of Zipolite in search of the missing circus performers. What Aridjis makes of this surprising story is…rather boring. The book is half over before the heroine embarks on her quest, and nothing we learn in the first half of the story explains why Luisa would do something so capricious. At the same time, it’s hard to care. For a novel in which shipwrecks and the denizens of the ocean floor are recurring metaphors, this book seldom dives into the narrative. Instead of depth, we get a baroque style that doesn’t add much to our enjoyment or understanding. Early on, Luisa says of Tomás: “He had started out as a snag, a snag in the composition; from one moment to the next, there was no other way of putting it, he had begun to appear in my life back in the city. And since all appearances are ultimately disturbances, this disturbance needed investigating.” The novel is full of this sort of complicated language, and the story seldom benefits from it. References to 1980s punk and New Wave will be nostalgic landmarks for many readers, but we learn very little about Luisa beyond her taste in music. After Luisa realizes that the Tomás of her daydreams is nothing like the real boy, she goes looking for connection among the denizens of Zipolite and finds herself caught up in trouble she had not anticipated. There are eccentric characters and sensational incidents, but we never go below the surface.
A shallow coming-of-age fable.