Translated from the Spanish by Charlotte Coombe


From the cover and title you might expect this to be a relaxing beach read, but although beaches do feature, it is not particularly restful. Instead, it is an acerbic and occasionally laugh-out-loud funny look at a dysfunctional Latin American family, which reminded me a little in tone of Fleischman is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner.

“Tomás rarely cried. All they usually heard through the monitor was him reciting his newest words and expressions in his sleep: pterodactyl, guava, shitty place.”

Published in Spanish in 2017 as Tiempo Muerto (Dead Time), the book, which has just been published in English by Charco Press, is evocative and sometimes self-referential. Lucía and Pablo are Colombian immigrants living in the USA who have succeeded in financial terms, but whose marriage has failed to adapt to the demands of family life. Pablo feels nostalgic for Colombia, while Lucia find patriotism a bit ludicrous. While Lucía simultaneously relishes and resents the sudden need, with the arrival of twins, to be consumed by familial responsibilities, Pablo finds himself screwing a yoga teacher and flirting with his under-age students. Neither character is particularly likeable, but I found some of Lucia’s preoccupations – with her career, semi-sacrificed on the altar of motherhood, and with her sense of domestic injustice, relatable at times. When Pablo, who is definitely a bit of dodgy shagger, has a heart attack, suffering from what the medics tell him is “holiday heart”, brought on by excess indulgence, the couple reflect on their relationship – though I did rather wonder what they had seen in each other in the first place.

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