cover image Hurricane Season

Hurricane Season

Fernanda Melchor, trans. from the Spanish by Sophie Hughes. New Directions, $22.95 (224p) ISBN 978-0-8112-2803-9

Melchor’s English-language debut is a furious vortex of voices that swirl around a murder in a provincial Mexican town. The story opens with a group of boys discovering the body of the Witch in a canal. The Witch is a local legend: she provides the women of the town with cures and spells, while for the men she hosts wild, orgiastic parties at her house. Each chapter is a single, cascading paragraph and follows a different townsperson. First is Yesenia, a young woman who despises her addict cousin, Luismi, and one day sees him carrying the Witch from her home with another boy, Brando. Next is Munra, Luismi’s stepfather, who was also present at the Witch’s house; then Norma, a girl who flees her abusive stepfather and ends up briefly settling with Luismi; and lastly Brando, who finally reveals the details of the Witch’s death. The murder mystery (complete with a mythical locked room in the Witch’s house) is simply a springboard for Melchor to burrow into her characters’ heads: their resentments, secrets, and hidden and not-so-hidden desires. Forceful, frenzied, violent, and uncompromising, Melchor’s depiction of a town ogling its own destruction is a powder keg that ignites on the first page and sustains its intense, explosive heat until its final sentence. (Mar.)