“Ms. Jufresa: Where the f*#! did you learn to tell a story so well?” — Álvaro Enrigue, award-winning author of Sudden Death It started with a drowning. Deep in the heart of Mexico City, where five houses cluster around a sun-drenched courtyard, lives Ana, a precocious twelve-year-old who spends her days buried in Agatha Christie novels to forget the mysterious death of her little sister years earlier. Over the summer she decides to plant a milpa in her backyard, and as she digs the ground and plants her seeds, her neighbors in turn delve into their past. The ripple effects of grief, childlessness, illness and displacement saturate their stories, secrets seep out and questions emerge – Who was my wife? Why did my Mom leave? Can I turn back the clock? And how could a girl who knew how to swim drown? In prose that is dazzlingly inventive, funny and tender, Laia Jufresa immerses us in the troubled lives of her narrators, deftly unpicking their stories to offer a darkly comic portrait of contemporary Mexico, as whimsical as it is heart-wrenching.
It was easy to vanish when you looked like that. Easy to float up and away. When I sit down my thighs meet, and there’s always something spilling out from the waistband of my pants, or my chair, or my mouth. And I’m a lost cause when it comes to rhythm. Same with adventures. I suspect if I ever ran away, I’d only end up coming back
Sometimes I truly resent having to be seen with her in public. The rest of the time I just feel jealous. I don’t know how to say no to Pina. When we were in fourth grade she made me play a game where you scratched your hand until it bled. Then we did a blood pact to be sisters. But lately we’re not so similar: everything she does, everything that happens to her, makes me jealous. It’s all so much more exciting than anything going on in my life. And I don’t know when this started. Actually, I do. It started when her mom reappeared.