I finished Women in Translation Month 2020 with reading The Wind That Lays Waste by Argentinian author Selva Almada. The Wind That Lays Waste tells the story of Reverend Pearson and his daughter Leni traveling through the Argentinian countryside. Their car breaks down and leads them to a shop owned by an old mechanic, Gringo Bauer. Bauer has a teenager named Tapioca who works for him.
This short novel revolves around the interaction of these four characters and not much happens in terms of action. Almada writes an interesting character-oriented story that could have fallen prey to stereotypical characterizations with Reverend Pearson and Gringo Bauer. Both men are set-up on opposite sides of the belief spectrum. Reverend Pearson is a fervent believer in Jesus Christ from an Evangelical Christianity perspective, and Gringo Bauer comes across as agnostic.
Almada writes perceptively in how these two men interact with each other. Also, the connection between Leni and Tapioca was solid. The power of story can show the humanity of a character that a reader may disagree with on a political, philosophical, or religious level. The storyteller’s job is to reveal that person you disagree with on a basic level as a fleshed out human being. Almada does this with both Reverend Pearson and Gringo Bauer. I have read plenty of novels over the years where a writer (who is not a believer in Christianity) creates a religious character with an axe to grind about the faith. That’s bad storytelling. I’m glad Almada avoids this in the story.
The story’s conflict comes from Reverend Pearson’s insistence of God working in every situation and Gringo Bauer’s complete disagreement of that viewpoint. Reverend Pearson believes that Tapioca is a special and wants him to come with the minister and his daughter once the car is fixed. Gringo Bauer disagrees, and the story revolves that conflict in obvious but satisfying fashion.
If you love character-oriented stories and can accept a character like Reverend Pearson for his humanity, then I will recommend The Wind That Lays Waste. However, if you have antagonistic feelings as a reader about a character like the Reverend then I would not suggest you read the story. I’m glad I read this novel and I look forward to reading more from Selva Almada.