I had a conversation recently (for the life of me, I can’t remember with whom. Hoping it wasn’t myself) about a mutual love of Latin American authors and why their writing touches us so deeply. Of course, every author has their own unique style, but there does seem to be common threads in how various Latin American authors portray civilization. Perhaps the amount of political upheavals and changing ideologies, in many Latin American countries, exposes the population to different views of life and humanity, from a very young age. I believe going through times of political and/or personal struggle highlights not only the dark side of humankind, but also the light. Latin American artists seem to have a high capacity for amplifying that light, along with an appropriate level of humor.
Alejandro Zambra amplifies well in Ways of Going Home. While I took some issue with the structure of the novel, the core is compelling. Zambra employs a touch of meta in his structuring of the novel. The sections in Ways of Going Home switch between the novel itself, and the story of the main character’s writing of his novel (a little Calvinoesque). Basically, Ways of Going Home contains a novel within a novel. Using this technique is interesting. But. I was much more invested in the main character’s novel than in the “real life” sections. Yes, the “real life” narrative enhances the reading experience to a point, but, the novel could easily have stood on its own as a novella. Still, the heart of the piece continued to beat throughout and Zambra does a wonderful job of exploring relationships.
Will this be a book which stays with me? Probably not. Would I test Zambra out again? Very open to. Would I recommend Ways of Going Home to others? Absolutely.
Rating: 3.5 Meta Moments