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David Trueba, trans. from the Spanish by John Cullen. Other Press, $15.95 trade paper (176p) ISBN 978-1-59051-784-0

Adulthood is attained almost by accident in Trueba’s lively and amusing novel. For Beto, a 30-year-old Spanish landscape architect preparing to present his plan for a park containing “a forest of human-sized hourglasses” at the international Lebensgärten Conference in Munich, the lunge forward is initiated by a text message from his girlfriend Marta—even though it’s not meant for him. Marta is planning to leave Beto for an ex-lover; shaken by this revelation of her infidelity, Beto takes his anger out on a more successful colleague, fellow Spaniard Alex Ripollés. But Ripollés’s role as Beto’s professional nemesis isn’t as definite as Beto thinks. Likewise, Helga, the kind, older conference volunteer, may mean more to Beto than just a place to spend the night after he strands himself in Germany rather than returning to the apartment he shares with Marta in Madrid. Trueba’s (Learning to Lose) gentle satire of youthful aimlessness is set against the background of the financial crisis, and his bumbling, self-pitying, but ultimately sympathetic Beto proves a talented guide through a largely predictable world of disappointments, reversals, and occasional joys. Readers will be gratified, but not surprised, to learn via an esteemed architect Beto admires that life is like a garden: “Beauty comes down to appreciation... the passage of time is the perfect expression of transience, and it’s precisely this fleeting quality that endows each vital stage with significance.” (Aug.)