cover image The Wind That Lays Waste

The Wind That Lays Waste

Selva Almada, trans. from the Spanish by Chris Andrews. Graywolf, $15 trade paper (136p) ISBN 978-1-55597-845-7

The drama of this refreshingly unpredictable debut, set in the author’s native Argentina, smolders like a lit fuse waiting to touch off its well-orchestrated events. Four primary characters shape the plot: Gringo Brauer, a mechanic in the countryside; Tapioca, his young son and assistant; the Reverend Pearson, an evangelical preacher whose disabled car is towed to Brauer’s garage; and Leni, Pearson’s rebellious teenage daughter. Over the course of a single afternoon, Pearson, who thinks of himself smugly as “an arrow burning with the flame of Christ,” attempts to convert Tapioca, despite Brauer’s complete indifference to religious faith. When Pearson tries to persuade Brauer to let Tapioca come with him, because he sees the boy as a “pure soul” lacking the flaws he himself had at that age, the stage is set for a finale that explodes to the accompaniment of a furious thunderstorm. All of the characters have rich, multidimensional personalities that engage the reader’s sympathy—even Pearson, whose arrogant swagger is counterbalanced by the sincerity of his faith. The characters’ thoughtful discussion of their beliefs—and the potential for both violence and grace that overshadows their interactions—results in a stimulating, heady story. [em](July) [/em]