In this English debut from best-selling Argentinian writer González, the deer population of a small Midwestern city starts attacking people, and a squad of retirees organizes to hunt the animals down. At the same time, a group of protesters decides to abandon the "system" and live in the woods, while a local taxidermist is beginning to see the connections among the dropouts, the deer, and the discord.
... unsettling, fantastical, and often hilarious ... It’s a strange motion this book makes; you could call it meandering but that undersells how consistently riveting it is ... One fascinating thing about this book, out of several, is the amount of detail and bearing down we find here, despite its myriad subplots; this book maintains the weight of its details, and comfortably ... The force driving American Delirium is González’s clear fascination with her fictional subjects. Her lens knows no boundaries, delving into the most minute parts of characters’ lives [...] When we do finally reach a conclusion, we feel less like we have been reading a novel than like we have been listening to a symphony. We understand the novel has to end here, even if we don’t know why — and our mystification becomes one of the book’s many satisfactions.
... the killer-deer-as-avenging-nature subplot is perhaps a little clunky. There is even a consistent critique of the patriarchal nuclear family, an argument that gets bluntly articulated ... These thematic engagements are farcical enough that they contribute to the novel’s overall sense of the absurd—a sense otherwise generated by the gradual accretion of Gonzalez’s whimsical details ... These details are both relentless and intensely pleasurable ... But to focus on the whimsy is to miss what might be American Delirium’s most compelling achievement: its subtle recalibration of the critique of the realist novel. For most narrative theorists, realism is a mode that leans decidedly conservative ... By drawing inspiration from natural history’s mimetic project but rejecting that project’s ideological mission in its wild, absurdist plot, American Delirium harnesses dead and enclosed animals to mount what [Heather K.] Love would call 'new living realities' ... American Delirium might be seen as performing a kind of speculative taxidermy. In its simultaneous parody of contemporary American culture and its joy in how often the parodic and the real coincide, it both preserves and imagines otherwise. It shifts seamlessly between representing the 'has been' and the 'might be.'
[A] wild romp ... Note: There is some graphic animal cruelty here, so if you are sensitive to that, this is not your book ... The lively pace and absurdity of American Delirium could easily go off the rails, but González keeps a tight control over each of her characters even as they navigate their ever-stranger adventures. The novel is well served by translator Heather Cleary’s light touch, which allows for a certain amount of zaniness without sacrificing the plot or the well-defined characters.