cover image Accidentals


Susan M. Gaines. Torrey House, $18.95 trade paper (342p) ISBN 978-1-948814-16-4

Gaines (Carbon Dreams) delivers a rich story about a mother and son who set out to live a more sustainable life and end up in a battle over family land. Lili, a middle-aged divorcée and naturalized American citizen, convinces her 20-something son, Gabriel, to move with her to her native Uruguay, where she plans to turn land her father owns into a small organic farm. However, Lili’s brother, Juan, sees potential profit in converting the land into a rice farm. Juan’s plan requires ripping up the fields and turning them into rice paddies, and his farming techniques end up destroying the delicate ecology of the land. Soon after arriving, Gabriel, an avid birdwatcher, meets Alejandra, a biologist, and falls in love with her. When migrating birds (“accidentals... who had gotten lost”) begin to flock to the fields Juan had altered, Alejandra sees this as a dire sign for the future of the land. Alejandra rallies Gabe and also finds an ally in Lili, who convinces Juan of the need for more sustainable farming. Gaines’s melding of sensual landscapes with ruminations on political history and environmental devastation will be a treat for conservationists, and her critique of globalization and portrayal of sibling rivalry are particularly well rendered. Barbara Kingsolver fans will want to take a look. (Mar.)