FISH SOUP by Charlotte Coombe


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In her first book to be published in English, Colombian author García Robayo plunks readers into nine seemingly mundane lives.

In the opening novella, Waiting for a Hurricane, a young woman aches to escape the world she has been born into: a coastal Colombian city where the lagoon, “because it was full of crap,” overflows when it rains and a “common as muck” family that refuses to face reality. Since the age of 7, the narrator has seen herself as different from the “lost causes” around her and so she makes bold personal and professional choices in order to forge her own path in the world. As the book moves into its second section, a collection of short stories published in Spanish as Worse Things, it continues to follow individuals eager to escape the frustrations of life. In "You Are Here," for instance, a salesman winds up in the “biggest hotel in Europe” after an accident at the Madrid airport results in all planes being grounded. All the man wants to do is wash up, have a smoke, and fly home to his wife, but the insistent hotel staff blocks even his small attempts to find comfort. In another story, "Worse Things," an adolescent named Titi finds ways to slowly withdraw into himself as his family monitors the space he takes up in the world. At first glance, the two novellas and seven short stories of this collection might appear to be quiet slices of everyday life. García Robayo’s thoughtful prose, however, which expertly combines playful wit with careful restraint, infuses each story with a powerful undercurrent of desire that can turn ordinary events like skipping school, chatting with neighbors, or stomaching an unexpected layover into surreal, often unnerving, encounters. While this emphasis on yearning appears most explicitly in the second novella, Sexual Education—an often humorous, refreshingly frank depiction of the expectations of chastity, pulls of desire, and atmosphere of confusion that encircle the lives of teenage girls—the unspoken longings and unanswered questions of the other tales similarly leave readers eager for more work from García Robayo.

An evocative collection that conveys the potency of desire in even the most ordinary lives.

Pub Date: Dec. 19th, 2019
ISBN: 978-1-9998593-0-5
Page count: 212pp
Publisher: Charco Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 2019