cover image Monstrilio


Gerardo Sámano Córdova. Zando, $27 (336p) ISBN 978-1-63893-036-5

A monster takes the place of a dead child in Mexican writer Sámano Córdova’s sly and unsettling debut. Santiago, 11, dies from an unspecified illness while convalescing in Upstate New York. “Her son was alive, and now he isn’t. How dull,” the author writes of Magos, the mother, who feels robbed of a sense of drama: she’d previously imagined Santiago dying in her arms in a crowded mall as she became “a Pietá.” She keeps a piece of his lung in a jar as a memento mori, and when they return to Mexico City, the family’s housekeeper tells Magos a story about a woman who kept and fed a young child’s heart and another child grew in its place. Magos then spoons some broth into the jar, and by the following morning, the lung has begun growing. Magos keeps feeding the lung until it breaks out of the jar, then bites off part of her thumb. Eventually, the lung grows to be the size of a child, and Magos names him Monstrilio. Her husband gets Monstrilio a cat tower for him to perch on, though their creation proves less domesticated than they’d hoped. While the prose is a bit flat, Sámano Córdova does a good job elucidating the contours of grief and love. This creepy work of psychological horror gives readers plenty to chew on. (Mar.)