cover image Tender

Tender

Ariana Harwicz, trans. from the Spanish by Annie McDermott and Carolina Orloff.

Set in the contemporary French countryside, the potent latest from Harwicz (Feebleminded) offers a layered and demanding examination of one woman’s relationships with her lover and her teenage son. The unnamed narrator lives with her son in a rundown farmhouse. Both shoplift from the local grocers, the son frequently skips school, and a social worker appears at the family’s home, demanding answers about his absences. An Oedipal complex grows, with the narrator frequently waking to find her son on top of her. Meanwhile, she carries on a violent affair with the owner of a nearby vineyard, and when the man seems to lose interest, she and her son bombard his home with stones and flee town to avoid the consequences. Less a straightforward narrative than a stream of consciousness tour of the mother’s jumbled experiences, Harwicz paints a portrait of a troubled trio headed toward destruction. The prose is at turns poetic (“There is nothing more narcotic than this sky”), terse, and darkly funny. As ever, Harwicz both impresses and repels with her blistering descriptions of the extremes of human behavior. (Feb.)