Stories about lonely, disaffected people in contemporary Chile.
The characters in Flores’ debut collection are a lonely, motley bunch. They’re isolated and poor; their families are dysfunctional; they yearn for something they can’t always name. In “Lucky Me,” Denise wants desperately to feel something—anything. She’d lived an itinerant childhood, “and as she was living in shared rooms in other people’s houses, the hope began gestating that when she finally found herself surrounded by her own things, she would feel something in her heart.” But like many of the other characters, Denise is disappointed. Flores has won several prizes in her native Chile, and it’s not hard to see why: Her prose (deftly translated by McDowell) is fluid and assured. But there’s a sameness to these stories that can sometimes dip down into blandness. The narrators' voices are too similar; even as the characters differ in age, gender, and circumstance, each narrator sounds just like the last. Many of the tales feature children. In the title story, two young girls accompany their father to a job interview. In other stories, Flores seems to strive for a hard-edged—even harsh—tone, but here, she borders on precious: “Simona was sure that her father loved her, but she could also tell that something was making him feel lonely, and that all the love she could give him didn’t help.” At other times, Flores runs into the opposite mistake. Trying to avoid sentimentality, she goes too far and misses out on real feeling.
This collection marks the arrival of an interesting young writer, if not a fully developed one.