cover image The Strangers

The Strangers

Jon Bilbao, trans. from the Spanish by Kattie Whittemore. Dalkey Archive, $16.95 trade paper (136p) ISBN 978-1-6289-7455-3

Bilbao (Still the Same Man) delivers a thrilling account of a strange disruption to a couple’s monotonous life. Jon and Katharina work from Jon’s parents’ house at their dead-end jobs while house-sitting. Amid their drudgery, they struggle to sustain their sex life and rarely discuss Katharina’s early-stage pregnancy. One evening, three colored lights—a red triangle, green circle, and green oval—soar over their coastal town in Cantabria. The next morning, Markel, who claims to be Jon’s cousin, appears in the driveway with his aloof assistant, Virginia. Jon doesn’t remember this cousin, who moved to Chile during his childhood, or so Markel says, but Katharina is dazzled by the pair and invites them to stay. Suddenly their life is filled with laughter, bars, movie nights, and exquisite cooking—shaking Jon and Katharina out of their rut. But Jon can’t escape his doubts about Markel, and his suspicions are inflamed by Markel’s cryptic intimations about their lineage: “You don’t take much interest in the family.... There’s a lot you don’t know.” Bilbao makes palpable the household tension, as well as the obsession on the part of ufologists who flock to town in droves, and draws it all to a close with an exciting and unexpected ending. This account of strange visitors both terrestrial and extra is great fun. (Jan.)