cover image Perla


Carolina De Robertis. Knopf, $25.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-307-59959-9

Following her successful fiction debut, Invisible Mountain, De Robertis tackles the lingering repercussions of the state-sponsored disappearances of political dissidents that characterized Argentina’s late-1970s dirty war. In March 2001, while 22-year-old Perla Correa’s parents are on vacation, a naked man, smelling like “fish and copper and rotting apples,” materializes in her living room in an affluent Buenos Aires suburb, and Perla finds herself drawn to him. Over several days, he recalls the life he shared with his pregnant wife—a life that ended when he was abducted more than two decades earlier. As she listens, Perla laments her recent breakup with a kindhearted journalist who suspected that she herself might have been stolen from disappeared parents, a possibility that Perla has never wondered about, or “more accurately, I had, but the wondering barely left an imprint on my conscious memory, it had been as rapid as a blink.” Perla neglects her friends and studies to spend time with the stranger, whose stories speak to her long dormant search for identity. She struggles for truth as she sorts through the shards of Argentina’s shattered history, piecing together the painful fragments that may rightfully be hers. This ambitious narrative, largely told in flashbacks, is propulsive and emotionally gripping. De Robertis’s lyrical flights are grounded in the fulfillment of the most desperate wishes of disappeared parents and their children, culminating in a wrenching catharsis about rebirth and healing. (Mar.)