cover image Like Happiness

Like Happiness

Ursula Villarreal-Moura. Celadon, $28 (304p) ISBN 978-1-250-88283-7

In Villarreal-Moura’s accomplished first novel (after the chapbook Math for the Self-Crippling), an American expat in Chile reckons with the fraught friendship she had with an older novelist that began when she was in college. A dual timeline narrative portrays the relationship’s origins. Tatum Vega, a Texan enrolled at Williams College in 2000, writes a fan letter to lauded Puerto Rican short story writer M. Dominguez, and their correspondence rapidly escalates into an obsessive friendship and occasional romance. After graduation, Tatum moves to New York City to be closer to the writer, who insists she call him Mateo. In 2015 Santiago, where Tatum lives with her partner Vera, she’s contacted by a New York Times reporter who’s writing an exposé on Dominguez’s alleged sexual assault of another young Latinx woman. Addressing her narration to Mateo—“I’m sure you recall that the New York Times Book Review devoted two full pages to the release of your long-awaited novel”—Tatum slowly builds to the alarming revelation in that novel’s pages that sent her far away from the writer. Questions of whether and how Mateo groomed Tatum reverberate throughout the subtle and satisfying narrative. This leaves readers with much to chew on. (Mar.)