American Delirium

Betina González, trans. from the Spanish by Heather Cleary. Holt, $26.99 (224p) ISBN 978-1-250-62128-3
Argentinian González anatomizes in her skillful English-language debut an American community’s pursuit of enlightenment and the violence and madness left in its wake. The novel takes place in a moribund, near-future unnamed U.S. city where only the university and the natural history museum have survived a devastating depression. The residents, increasingly attuned to “early cultural signs of the final imbalance, of how the entire planet would eventually rise up against us,” have embraced a more resourceful lifestyle by taking up hunting. Among them, Vik, an ailing taxidermist from the fictional Caribbean island of Coloma, discovers that a possibly dangerous intruder has been living in his closet; the acerbic Beryl instructs those, like her, over 70, in marksmanship after crazed deer begin assaulting people; and a young girl, Berenice, looks for a new caretaker after her mother abandons her to join a cultish back-to-nature group. The story lines gradually converge around the prevalence of a hallucinogenic Coloma plant called albaria that “closes your eyes and sets you down in a ray of light where time doesn’t exist.” This has the makings of a zany psychedelic romp, but instead the delirium is marvelously controlled and administered in doses just potent enough to ease patient readers into this off-kilter world. González’s distorted utopian vision is a memorable trip. (Feb.)
Reviewed on : 09/30/2020
Release date: 02/16/2021
Genre: Fiction
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