cover image Among the Hedges

Among the Hedges

Sara Mesa, trans. from the Spanish by Megan McDowell. Open Letter, $14.95 trade paper (140p) ISBN 978-1-948830-39-3

Set primarily within a city park, the engrossing latest from Mesa (Four by Four) charts the budding friendship between a 13-year-old girl and an unemployed 50-something man, who first meet when he chances upon her hiding behind a hedge to avoid being caught for skipping school. They strike up a conversation, and the next morning, he returns to their hideout. Days turn to weeks as they devise nicknames for each other—“Soon” (asked her age, she says, “I’ll be fourteen soon”) and “Old Man”—and he teaches her about his love of birds and the music of Nina Simone. Soon notices Old Man’s short temper and wonders how he can afford to spend so much time in the park. Yet she cannot help being drawn to him and begins fabricating stories about him in her diary (“she intuits that he is harmless, but if she wants to get somewhere with this, she has to imagine him as dangerous”). Mesa writes in brief bursts throughout, carefully avoiding formulaic plot developments as her characters spend more time together. The consequences of their encounters unfold in an ingenious final act set one year later, which is both unsettling and touching. This is difficult to put down. Agent: Andrea Montejo, Indent. (May)