"His stories shimmer like revelations – the clarity, mystery, beauty, depth, and sheer, thrilling peculiarity of ordinary life when the veil lifts. They’re exhilarating to read, just as exhilarating to re-read."—Deborah Eisenberg
Childhood does not last long in the Argentine mountains of Córdoba, and adult lives fall apart quickly. In disarming, darkly humorous stories, Federico Falco explores themes of obsessive love, romantic attachment and the strategies we must find to cope with death and painful longing.
In the middle of a blizzard a widow watches the ruin of her late-husband’s garden, until suddenly she sees a woman running naked in the falling snow. After telling her parents she is abandoning her Christian faith, a girl becomes infatuated with a Mormon missionary who reminds her of a boy killed in her village years before. When his family’s home is lost, a father desperately offers his daughter’s hand in marriage to anyone who will take them in. And a town’s mayor tries to fulfill his father’s dying wish – to design the perfect cemetery.
Falco meditates on a series of outsiders in his sturdy English-language debut, a story collection. "The Hares" concerns a man living in the woods, referred to by the narrator as "king of the hares," as he sneaks into town for supplies. In "Silvi and Her Dark Night," a teen falls for a Mormon missionary, much to the frustration of her Christian mother. Cultures clash again in "Woodland Life," when an elderly man seeks to marry off his adult daughter after an invading group of loggers threaten their home. "The River," set in a snowstorm, sees an aging widow question her neighbor's choice to remarry ("What would be the point, at our age? He can barely stand on his own two legs these days, hardly moves at all"), while trying to decipher a message from the ghost of her dead husband about something buried under the snow. And the title story tracks a cemetery designer's attempts to build a perfect resting place for a 104-year-old man. Throughout, Falco revels in the unease generated by opposite personalities. While not every story dazzles, Falco proves himself as a fine storyteller.