Coming this August 15th with Penguin Press

Translated by Alison Entrekin

That bad blood there, it’s good that it’s coming out. You’ve got to let it out, because then you body will make more of the good blood, the clean sort that runs through the inside, to replace the bad blood, understand?’

This is a book that could put South American literature back on the map.

Brazilian author Daniel Galera writes some terrific scenes in this short yet haunting novel about a man trying to make sense of who he is and deal with the regrets of his past.

While being a relatively short read at 192 pages, there are many beautiful and evocative passages that make this an almost visceral experience of growing up in Brazil.

The opening chapter alone almost has a short story quality to it as we read an exciting account of ‘the urban cyclist.’ It is here that we are introduced to the novel’s man character, Hermano.

The opening scene is just one of many memorable scenes that Galera writes to recount Hermano’s childhood and subsequent teenage years. Whether he is describing an afternoon soccer game, a kamikaze downhill bicycle ride or a teenage get together, you can almost smell the hormones coming right off the page.

Hermano is a boy with many friends and acquaintances, but still lives somewhere on the outside of the group. While being more than capable of surviving the rough and tumble of life on the streets of his local neighbourhood, he still avoids physical confrontation of any kind. This is at odds with his unusual tendency to injury himself remarkably when riding his bike. His refusal to engage in fistfights and brawls seems smart until the day one of his friend’s needs help.

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The weather had been dry and the beaten earth of the soccer field filled the air with a brown dust that hung there, apparently static, for minutes on end, refusing to accept the natural order of things and fall back to the ground.’

In between these childhood recollections, we meet a very grown up Hermano who is rising early to collect his friend Renan. As he prepares to embark on a mountaineering trip to Cerre Bonete in Bolivia, his thoughts constantly return to his childhood days when he witnessed a horrendous crime. Inexplicably, he alters his early morning destination and begins to drive around his old neighbourhood, thus taking a trip down memory lane to ponder upon what might have been.

Within this contemplation, Hermano wonders how his earlier life has affected his life in the present day. He’s not even sure that he likes Renan or mountaineering yet he still leaves his disgruntled wife Adri to embark on the expedition. Hermano is missing something from his life and only by looking back and facing the fears of his past can he find the missing piece.

By the end of this novel, I too was left contemplating the decisions that I have made in my own past and wondering how these thoughts or regrets affect me in the present day. This book really makes you question what would be done differently when given a second chance.

Would I recommend this book to a friend?

Yes. Yet another example of a relatively short read from another part of the world that will give you a different perspective on life. These type of reads are fast becoming my favourite genre and offer a great opportunity for any reader to become a literary world traveller. Broaden your horizons and take a trip to sunny Brazil with this book!

Afterthoughts

  • The Shape Of Bones was written in 2006 but only comes to the English language market this year.
  • This book may not be coming out until later this year but I still found myself struggling to put it down once I started reading it over the Christmas Holidays. I had other, more important books to get to before their release in January, but try as I might this book kept pulling me back until I got to the end!
  • For other short reads that will give you a taste of the international, check out Man Tiger, The Vegetarian and The Dog That Dared To Dream
  • Reading this book reminded very much of the excellent Colombian export ‘The Sound of Things Falling’ by Juan Gabriel Vásquez.

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