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Pensive, sometimes oppressive, altogether impressive novel by a young writer only now becoming known outside Brazil.

A translator of Zadie Smith and David Mitchell, Galera here blends some of the wistfulness of Latin American magical realism with a brooding dystopianism. His Macondo is a place called Garopaba, a beach town that the world pretty well forgets once the season is over. There, a blameless and nameless young man, left in the world without family or friends, finds an anchorage of sorts and even something like love: “Jasmim is the first person he has ever met,” our narrator tells us, “who knows what prosopagnosia is.” Prosopa what? Well, the young man has an unfortunate condition that causes him to forget faces, which makes it altogether too easy for bullies to victimize him without him being able to identify the assailant. So they do, but they 'fess up to things like stealing his faithful old canine companion: “I forget people’s faces,” he says. “Now who was it?” Says the bad guy, “It was me,” knowing that his victim won’t remember in a minute, that he isn’t even capable of hating his enemies, since he can’t tell them apart from anyone else. His tormentors may have cause to behave badly, though, since, as the young man learns, his grandfather, who was killed in Garopaba, may not have been altogether undeserving of his fate. Galera writes lyrically of a land of jungle and beach, even when the mood turns Hitchcock-ian: “He steps on a loose stone, and his fall is broken by his backpack, but his elbow gets a good whack, and he feels the pain travel up his arm to his shoulder like an electric shock.” The mystery mounts: Will the young man plunge onto the rocks below? Will those he trusts betray him? Are we really made of stardust? All will be revealed, though Galera warns on the last count, “Stop talking like hippies.”

An elegant, literate and literary mystery of appearances and disappearances.

Pub Date: Jan. 26th, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-59420-574-3
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Penguin Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 2014


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