In the tiny village of Kulumani, the people struggle to keep themselves safe from a marauding band of lions.
Thirty-two-year-old Mariamar is the sole surviving daughter of Hanifa and Genito; her sister, Silência, has just become the lions’ latest victim. But while Mariamar and her family mourn, the people of Kulumani are finally spurred to action, and they call in a hunter to deal with the lions. Mariamar is sequestered at home by her parents to avoid the hunter, Archangel Bullseye, whom she had first met 16 years ago. Then, Bullseye pursued Mariamar with the same passion he used to pursue his animal prey. Mariamar’s narration is masterfully intercut with the hunter's perspective; while she sees visions of her dead sister intermingled with the lions that killed her, Bullseye prepares for what he knows will be his last hunt. As the death toll mounts, the villagers become impatient with Bullseye's inability to kill the lions, and the crisis comes to a head in one terrifying, bloody night. Mozambique biologist and writer Couto (The Tuner of Silences, 2013, etc.) crafts a rich tale in which the spirit world is made real, animals are controlled by people, and dead ancestors are feared for their power to destroy cities. Couto also manages to explore the clash of disparate belief systems—tribal, Islam, Christian—in postcolonial Africa and deftly weaves in a critique of the embedded patriarchy. If there is a fault, it is the unevenness of the reveal of information which at times allows questions to linger too long, distracting the reader from fully falling under the spell of this otherwise entrancing narrative.
A haunting, ethereal flight of magical realism.