cover image Such Small Hands

Such Small Hands

Andrés Barba, trans. from the Spanish by Lisa Dillman. Transit (Consortium, dist.), $15.95 trade paper (108p) ISBN 978-1-945492-00-6

Orphaned when her parents are killed in a car accident, a delicate little girl named Marina is sent to an orphanage, where she finds a world as mysterious and forbidding as any alien planet. In time, though, she reshapes this microcosm into her own dominion. Barba’s prose is both halting and haunting; simple balanced sentences whose opacity hint at an underlying fear and wariness. The perspective moves fluidly from the other girls at the orphanage—“Everything around her was contaminated, and so were we”—to Marina—“Marina could see the pulse on their necks, their sleep smell”—and back again. A pariah at first, Marina begins to earn the respect of the other girls when she kills a caterpillar and its burial becomes a communal act. At a seemingly random moment, Marina understands that she is different, a staggering realization that gives her a strange sense of empowerment, and prompts her to impose her will on the other girls. This transition, in which she turns the girls into her dolls (“We were all lovers and the game was our love.”) is as unsettling as Marina’s initial introduction to her new home, when she was the prey and they the predators. Interpret Barba’s elliptical story as you will, but chances are you won’t soon forget it. (Apr.)