M, our narrator, has struck a deal with her father. They haunt the dusty roads of Pinochet’s Chile as a sales-duo, using M’s charms to sway shop owners towards buy more nails, hammers, and other hardware than her father could sell on his own.
If the person in charge focused on my pupils, instead of encountering me, he or she encountered every possible form of fragility: world hunger; ice sculptures that, after so much effort, were reduced to water, the Soviet space-dog Laika turning around and around and around in the long night of infinity.
D, M’s father, is a salesman and a dreamer. He’s a man of habit and ritual, but not a man of order.
When D saw Neil Armstrong take his first step on the moon, he thought that anything was possible–all it took was the right attitude and the right outfit.
It’s tempting at first to cast M aside as another Wes Anderson-esque overly mature child with affected mannerisms, but making that generalization does a disservice to both M and to her creator. María José Ferrada imbues M with wonder, power, and control in a world that is eager to take all of those things from her. M is more than a shiny pair of shoes and a shrewd plan. The photographer who joins D on long car rides is more than a shy artist. M’s mother is more than a sleepwalker. The dusty towns where M and D sell their wares are eerily quiet, but not because business is slow.
How to Order the Universe is a quick read, but it will linger on in the back of your memory far past the moment you read the last sentence. It feels like a dream, and it will inhabit the space in your brain between waking and sleep. The dream-state permeates everyone and everything within How to Order the Universe, and it will cling to you as well.
I received this ARC from the Tin House in exchange for a fair and honest review