cover image Blood Red

Blood Red

Gabriela Ponce Padilla, trans. from the Spanish by Sarah Booker. Restless, $18 trade paper (192p) ISBN 978-1-63206-330-4

In this unflinching English-language debut from Ecuadorian writer Ponce, a 38-year-old woman wrestles with life-changing decisions. The author adopts a stream-of-consciousness style for the unnamed narrator, who enjoys roller-skating in Ecuador with her girlfriends and drinking in bars. With her marriage on the rocks, the narrator develops a torrid affair with a stranger who resides in a cave-like hovel, coated in vines, moss, and mud. Their attraction is intense and visceral; while on her period, her blood heightens his desire. After her husband announces he’s leaving her, he informs her that he’s also having an affair. Her own affair, which is purely physical, leaves her unsatisfied and lonely. While despondent after realizing she’s in love with the cave dweller, she drives drunk and believes she hits a man with her car, which destabilizes her. She seeks refuge at a retreat that temporarily salves her heartache over her lover and guilt over the accident, though she wonders if the crash was a hallucination. Padilla brings striking candor to the narrator’s ambivalence as she undergoes a series of emotional transformations, and Booker expertly captures the rhythm and velocity of Padilla’s prose, which skims along the surface before plunging into startling depths, such as this scene with the narrator and her husband: “we talked about friends, filed a few complaints, and then he said he’d met someone. I asked her name and then came the quiet that warns of the greatest danger.” Padilla packs a powerful punch. Agent: Sophie Savary, Sophie Savary Literary. (Oct.)