cover image Cross-Stitch


Jazmina Barrera, trans. from the Spanish by Christina MacSweeney. Two Lines, $24 (224p) ISBN 978-1-949641-53-0

The narrator of Barrera’s intelligent if slack debut novel (after the book-length essay Linea Nigra) looks back on her lifelong friendships with two women after one of them dies. When Mila, a writer and new mother, learns Citlali drowned off the coast of Senegal, she reflects on the formative years they shared with their other friend Dalia. As teens, the trio traveled from Mexico to Europe, visiting the cultural highlights of London and Paris while negotiating new suitors and boyfriends back home, and sharing a stint working for a literacy campaign in the impoverished village of Yospí. What unites the teenage girls, beyond their mutual interest in art and travel, is a love of embroidery. The multilayered novel alternates between the story of the girls’ lives and an elegant study of embroidery’s significance in Mayan myths, the novels of Jean Rhys, the sculptures of Louise Bourgeois, and more. Though the narrative lacks urgency or tension, a thread of intrigue emerges as Mila speculates that Citlali’s abusive father might have been what drove her to leave Mexico for good. Readers will be more satisfied by Barrera’s erudite nonfiction. Agent: Andrea Montejo, Indent Literary. (Nov.)