A low fog called camanchaca pushes in from the sea as a fifteen-year-old boy crosses Chile's Atacama Desert with his father in a Ford Ranger. As the miles go by, the boy thinks about his broken family: the intimacy with his mother, his absentee father, his uncle's unexplained death. In trying to fit all the pieces of his family puzzle together, he begins to realize that sometimes the silences are what bind us together.
I'm always on the lookout for books set in South America, which is the main reason why I picked up this 128-page novella. Once I started reading, I couldn't stop, but I'll warn you right now that Camanchaca isn't going to be to everyone's taste.
Many of the chapters are only one page or even just one paragraph long, and that fit the story. It reminded me of night travels by car as a child when I would rest my head against the window and wait for the illumination of a street light, then be plunged into darkness only to wait for the next street light. The boy has similar flashes of insight as he and his father travel through the night.
Some of those flashes of insight are quite powerful, and when I reached the end of this swiftly told tale, I almost wished it could go on. Camanchaca is different, and it's good.
Camanchaca by Diego Zúñiga
Translated from the Spanish by Megan McDowell.
Coffee House Press © 2017
eBook, 128 pages
Source: Purchased from Amazon.