cover image Above the Rain

Above the Rain

Victor del Árbol, trans. from the Spanish by Lisa Dillman. Other Press, $18.99 trade paper (480p) ISBN 978-1-63542-995-4

This overly ambitious novel from del Árbol (Breathing Through the Wound) alternates between multiple characters in Spain and Sweden. In a retirement home in Tarifa, Spain, Miguel, who’s showing signs of dementia and has painful memories of the Franco era, has befriended Helena, an Englishwoman with her own fraught past. In an effort to escape the weight of their respective personal histories, the pair set out on a road trip that will take them to Sweden, where Helena’s son lives. Meanwhile, in Malmö, Sweden, Yasmina, the daughter of Moroccan immigrants, is having an affair with a police officer and is at odds with her authoritarian grandfather. Eventually, Yasmina’s story intersects with that of Miguel and Helena, with tragic results. Detailed backstories—even of minor characters like a Russian thug—slow the pace. Assured prose (“Memories were like termites, eating away at the present, boring holes in it and making it weak”) makes up only in part for the cumbersome plot. This is more a meditation on family, circumstance, and violence, both political and personal, than it is a crime novel. Agent: Tom Colchie, Colchie Agency. (May)