cover image Slash and Burn

Slash and Burn

Claudia Hernández, trans. from the Spanish by Julia Sanches. And Other Stories, $17.95 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-1-911508-82-3

Salvadoran writer Hernández mines the traumatic aftermath of an unnamed Latin American country’s civil war for a wrenching story of three generations of women including an ex-guerrilla combatant and her four daughters, all unnamed. While fighting as a guerrilla in the mountains, the combatant becomes pregnant and is forced to give up her firstborn daughter for adoption. Decades after the war, the now ex-combatant searches for her daughter in France, where the daughter was raised by adoptive parents, leaving behind her three other daughters. One was raised primarily by the ex-combatant’s mother, and the ex-combatant’s feelings of guilt over the war, along with her resentment toward her own mother’s neglect, eddy through the narrative of her search. While initially challenging, the series of nameless female narrators, nameless places, and indirect speech render a certain universality and anonymity to the characters, and, coupled with the crystalline descriptions of postwar devastation, the technique dramatically underscores the horrific context of Cold War–era civil wars in Latin America, from the ever-present threat of rape and murder by marauding soldiers during the conflict to the present-day tension and distrust. Multilayered and consistently engrossing, Hernández’s knockout novel is not to be missed. (Jan.)