Talking to Ourselves

Farrar. Apr. 2014. 160p. tr. from Spanish by Nick Caistor & Lorenza Garcia. ISBN 9780374167530. $23; ebk. ISBN 9780374710309. F
In Neuman's fifth novel, his second to be translated into English, truck driver Mario is dying of an incurable, unnamed illness, as wife Elena, a language teacher, seeks consolation by reading books mirroring her situation. Mario hides the medical truth from his ten-year-old son, Lito, whom he decides to take on a road trip through a countryside of fictitious place names. During their absence, Elena carries on a kinky affair with Ezequiel, Mario's doctor. In a variant of an epistolary novel, the plot moves forward by dint of the narrations of each character, Mario recording his thoughts to his son from the hospital, Elena writing her ideas and actions in a journal, and Lito offering an interior monolog during the trip. The intimate, conversational interiorization of this novel differs sharply from the epic sweep of Neuman's earlier Traveler of the Century and its gentler tone is equally effective; we come away understanding the characters and their motivations honestly and directly, though we may not always condone their actions.
VERDICT This triptych of a dying man's commitment to his family and their response will infuse readers with its poignant, realistic experience. [See Prepub Alert, 10/28/13.]
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