cover image Down the Rabbit Hole

Down the Rabbit Hole

Juan Pablo Villalobos, trans. from the Spanish by Rosalind Harvey. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $12 trade paper (96p) ISBN 978-0-374-14335-0

Tochtli (which means “rabbit” in Nahuatl, Mexico’s primary indigenous language) is a kid who knows, by his own count, only about 13 or 14 people, though that number would be bigger, he explains, if it also included “corpses.” Such is the life of the son of an obscenely rich, violent, and understandably paranoid drug czar. Their secluded existence in a palace in the middle of nowhere accounts for Tochtli’s isolation, as well as for his imagination and his gravity, the spellbinding combination of which makes this tiny debut novel so wonderful. To write convincingly in the voice of a child, particularly such an odd child, is difficult. Yet in Villalobos’s exceptional rendering, Tochtli’s fascination with the decapitated royalty of the French Revolution and with proving himself macho in front of his father mix perfectly. The voice never feels overwrought with would-be childlike quirks, nor does it ever read like a convenient lens through which to view an adult world. The cadence of the prose and the vulnerability of the boy create a devastating story. (Oct.)