BUZZFEED BEST SUMMER BEACH READ PICK
From one of Brazil’s most important living writers, a powerful reflection on the effects of isolation and feelings of inadequacy in our time.
Sick and abandoned by his wife and son, Oséias decides to go back to his hometown after twenty years away. During this time apart, he has heard about his family only through sporadic phone calls from his younger sister, Isabela. The shadow of the suicide of their sister Lígia, when she was fifteen, lingers over Oséias as he tries to reestablish contact with his siblings. Each of them is absorbed in their own world: Rosana and her obsession with fitness; Isabela and her struggle to survive; João Lúcio and his isolation. All of them are branded by loneliness, but most of all Oséias, who, misunderstood by his family members and old acquaintances, decides to put an end to his journey.
Late Summer can be read as both the realistic story of a displaced man tortured by his unsuccessful attempt to redeem his past, and as a portrait of contemporary society, in which social classes have ruptured any form of dialogue between them, and people have become rogue planets whose paths cross occasionally, risking mutual destruction.
In the lugubrious latest from Ruffato (Unremembering Me), a terminally ill man spends his final days looking back on his youth. Oseias returns from S o Paulo to his hometown of Cataguases, which he last visited after the death of his mother 20 years earlier. Divorced and unemployed, he arrives with a backpack's worth of clothes, a dwindling supply of money, and no real sense of what he wishes to accomplish: "And here I am again, the threads that tie beginning to end in a tangle." His feuding siblings welcome him with varying degrees of warmth, suspicion, and indifference. Encounters with a childhood friend who has become the mayor, an ex-girlfriend, and a former high school art teacher break up the long, hot days. The ailing Oseias becomes a cipher for these talky characters, whose dialogue can come off as stiff in Sanches's translation. One particular event constitutes the novel's faint narrative pull: another sibling's long-ago death, in which Oseias played an unwitting role. The narrator's unadorned style can have an incantatory quality, but the spell is not strong enough to make up for the brittle characters and familiar premise. Fans of ruminative works such as Mike McCormack's Solar Bones may be disappointed.