01 September 2023

Review: Eartheater by Dolores Reyes

Eartheater by Dolores Reyes book cover

August was Women In Translation (WIT) month and this year marks the tenth year of the project designed to encourage more readers to pick up books written and translated by women. I don't always participate, but I was in the mood to pick up Eartheater by Dolores Reyes so this fit nicely into my reading schedule.

Eartheater is a Latin American novel set in a slum in modern-day Argentina. Our protagonist has a compulsion to eat earth, but when she does she often sees disturbing visions of people who are missing or have been murdered. Troubled by her gift and the violence against women she witnesses, she prefers to remain withdrawn, playing computer games and drinking beer. Meanwhile, news of her gift spreads and family members - desperately seeking answers about their loved ones - start leaving bottles of earth at her gate, in the hope she can help them.
"I knelt down ... and put the bottle next to the others for company. There were plenty of blue ones. No blue was the same and no earth tasted alike. No child, sibling, mother, or friend was missed like another. Side by side, they were like glimmering tombs. At first, I used to count them and arrange them tenderly, sometimes stroking one until it let me savor the earth inside it." Page 59
The thought of all of those bottles and the despairing loved ones who were desperately hoping she might be able to give them some answers immediately stressed me out. This expectation and pressure made me feel uneasy, and I wanted the character to bring the bottles in and start working through them systematically. Maybe teaming up with a policeman to do it in a neat and tidy 'crime-meets-magical-realism, told from a feminist perspective' kind of way.

But this isn't that book, or like the TV show Medium. Instead, Reyes successfully highlights the fact that having this ability doesn't automatically equip the receiver with the necessary life skills to overcome their individual circumstances and become a community hero. Life just isn't like that.

Translated to English from Spanish by Julia Sanches, Eartheater has a dark and haunting atmosphere and I enjoyed the note from the translator at the end of the novel. You can read the first 17 pages for free here.

My Rating:

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