Spanish writer Mesa, author of Four by Four, returns with a novel exploring the peculiar relationship between a bullied 13-year-old girl and a 54-year-old man who regularly meet at the park to discuss birds, Nina Simone and other subjects. Secrets rise to the surface as the pair find themselves facing questions about society's prejudices, assumptions and inappropriate behavior.
In Sara Mesa’s warm, nuanced novel Among the Hedges, a friendship blossoms, defying cultural expectations ... a daring, sympathetic novel about a friendship between two people whom society would prefer to keep apart.
Intriguing Spanish writer Sara Mesa...continues to explore highly charged power dynamics ... Obvious or predictable could never describe Mesa's narrative here. Her sly hints...are clearly meant to manipulate readers in various directions, right or wrong, truth or not ... Mesa, meanwhile, prods, enables, challenges, maybe even misleads. Satisfaction—of sorts—arrives in Mesa's concluding 'Part Two,' which shrewdly reveals the bittersweet outcome beyond the hedges.
The prose, simple and beautiful, flies by before we realize we know nothing of these characters, aside from Soon’s inability to fit in at school and her beloved brother’s recent departure, as well as Old Man’s love of birds, fraying suits and Nina Simone ... Details are mysteriously unimportant in the larger story. The logistics of Soon’s school absences are accounted for. The whereabouts of Old Man’s past progressions and his demeanor are never directly named. These details do not need to be laid out, because Mesa’s writing is tight enough to note the reader’s questions, but direct the story where it needs to go for her desired effect, which is a story about uncertainty in humanity. The text constantly raises the question 'what do we want from each other?' without providing an answer. I think that’s the point; even those who feel unable to connect can still make meaningful connections. It’s not so much the struggle for understanding, or even being understood, but finding moments of peace in a world that can be so cruel.