Old family resentments build along with a storm off the coast of Colombia.
González's (In the Beginning Was the Sea, 2015) latest novel to be translated into English is set in a Colombian seaside village, where an arrogant old man runs the Hotel Playamar with help from his adult twin sons. Despite a storm brewing, the stubborn father decides the three of them will spend a day and a night at sea fishing. The twins are Mario, the more volatile and practical, and Javier, the more even-tempered and bookish. Though there is no love lost between the twins and their father, the two do love their mother, Nora, “a total nutcase” who hallucinates and hears voices. Nora's condition has been worsening since her husband brought his young mistress and infant son to live at the hotel. Time moves forward hour by hour as noted in section titles, from Saturday, 4:00 a.m. to Sunday, 6:00 a.m. On shore, the mother begins to suffer a breakdown and the hotel guests are swept up in her hallucination. At sea, the threat of the storm mounts and the men find almost a biblical bounty of fish. Throughout, the narrative shifts between first- and close third-person, and a host of characters tell the tale. The many tourists of various ages and backgrounds show the contradictions in different characters’ perspectives. The father envisions himself a king while the twins see him as a dictator, and, from the tourists, we begin to see the dilapidated state of his kingdom. There is humor in the frequent revelation of self-delusions. There is also suspense as the storm—more interpersonal than weather-related—builds and breaks.
Fabulist elements, lyrical prose, and a chorus of narrative voices give this slim novel depth and breadth.