cover image Out in the Open

Out in the Open

Jesus Carrasco, trans. from the Spanish by Margaret Jull Costa. Riverhead, $26 (240p) ISBN 978-1-59463-436-9

Carrasco’s debut novel offers a vague, terrifying, and violent tale told in sparse, taut prose reminiscent of Cormac McCarthy. An unnamed boy is on the run from his harsh father and a sadistic bailiff. He flees into a vast, drought-riddled expanse in his unnamed country with a vague plan to simply get as far from home as possible. After he bumps into an old man with a small herd of goats and an overly friendly dog, the two become travelling companions, heading north to the mountains, where water is supposedly more prevalent. They endure sunstroke, dehydration, and the shocking cruelty of local authorities while slowly growing fond of each other despite their stoic reservations. Details are hazy, and although there are hints of a collapsed civilization barely hanging on after catastrophic climate change, the lack of specificity leaves little to focus on but brutality and survival. The boy’s traumatic history appears as rapid, disconnected flashes, blunting the emotional impact. The violence will make some readers balk, but passages of lovely writing coupled with the jaw-clenching tension and moments of hope make this a welcome introduction a new voice. (July)