Did not finish
It is 1981 in Buenos Aires. Juan and his young son Gaspar embark on a cross-country trip to his late wife’s family compound. It is clear from the beginning that Juan is ill and is still suffering the after-effects of recent heart surgery and the sudden loss of his wife Rosario. This is no ordinary road trip. He is struggling to support his son, who does not understand what is really happening and is traumatized by his mother’s death and his father’s brush with death.
The first one hundred pages or so are dedicated to this week-long road trip in the middle of the Argentine summer. The oppressiveness of the heat and the wildness of the countryside is conveyed in lush and sweaty detail. When Juan and Gaspar finally arrive at his in-law’s compound, Juan has new fears to face. He is a medium, and his presence is required to perform the annual ritual where members of his inlaws’ “cult” called The Order, use Juan to communicate with The Darkness. Juan’s heart condition somehow allows him to channel the spirit. Despite his lifelong sickness, he has somehow managed to hold on to his sanity longer than any other medium. However, he is terrified that the cult leaders will force his son to take over his role, assuming Gaspar begins showing signs that he can connect with spirits, including the realm in which The Darkness exists. Juan believes that the leaders of The Order had his wife killed when she pushed back against her son’s “inheritance.”
This book is fascinating and is what I consider a slow-burn horror. There are references to the military coup, and how the bodies taken by The Order are rarely questioned since the government disappears so many people annually it is impossible to trace any single, low-profile death. Juan and his sister-in-law and ex-lover Tali must speak in secrets and symbols, both to evade the meddling of The Order and not to raise suspicions with the local government.
Despite the fascinating story, I could not get past the horror aspect. I do not read much horror but, as another reviewer of this author’s work wrote, this book comes with nearly every content warning I can name.
Also, this book is 736 pages. I got about 200 pages in and decided that I was not interested in continuing. The story meanders and I don’t have confidence that many of the mysteries of the order and Juan and Gaspar’s abilities or motivations will be revealed at any point. The book goes back and forth in time, and switches between the perspectives of Juan in 1981, Rosario and Tali decades prior, and Gaspar in the 1990s.
To be honest, I had no idea what to expect from this. I added it to my library holds a couple of months ago when I was looking for books to get my South America bingo square. I completed my bingo with another book about six weeks before this one became available.