A blood-soaked yet lyrical story of regrets, memories, and the faint possibility of redemption, set in a parched Mexican mesa.
Monge’s first novel to be translated into English will open one of Mexico’s most talented young writers to a new audience. Germán Alcántara Carnero has led a life of violence, pain, and suffering, with only short-lived glimmers of hope and joy. Beginning in 1956, as Alcántara Carnero walks away from the town he’s ruled with the brutality of a feudal lord for decades, Monge’s short novel weaves in and out of his protagonist's life as if flipping through a photo album. A chapter in which Alcántara Carnero tortures and murders a man might be followed by a chapter in which we get to the heart of the grudge he had toward the man or a chapter from Alcántara Carnero's childhood in which we start to understand the violence that has suffused his whole life. Monge’s sentences reflect the meandering structure, dizzying the reader with complexity and beauty. “It would be within his power to list every name etched on those tombstones in the distance, but he knows there’s no need, and he wishes there won’t ever be again, for that would mean making a roll call of his victims, the victims of the fury that once was in him.” At times, the style and structure can be frustrating, as it’s so easy for the reader to become unmoored. Memories blur and it can be easy to lose track of where and when we are. However, this style reflects Monge’s overall message about the morphing shape of memories and how they all combine to form a person.
While the explicit violence is hard to stomach, Monge’s novel is a brutal gem of a book concerned with the burdens of the past.