Working as a cook on a merchant ship, a woman comes to know and love Samsa, a woman who gives her the nickname “Boulder.” When Samsa gets a job in Reykjavik and the couple decides to move there together, Samsa decides that she wants to have a child. She is already forty and can’t bear to let the opportunity pass her by. Boulder is less enthused, but doesn’t know how to say no―and so finds herself dragged along on a journey that feels as thankless as it is alien.
... the language of desire never stops vibrating off the page; Baltasar pans the mundane for gold, and offers those nuggets — these morsels of intimacy — in a way that grips and sates ... Despite the displacement and disconnect endured by a delightfully complex protagonist whose anxiety-induced bons mots would surely kill on Twitter, the novel tugs at your heartstrings ... Baltasar, by way of Sanches’ translation, conjures a version of motherhood that shies away from the word. Instead, it’s an approximation, asking us to lean away from learned language, from the exact. And perhaps it shouldn’t have a name; maybe some things — like love — are meant to be hard to define.
... [a] tightly controlled meditation on sensuality, passion, and duty ... Boulder’s emotional isolation coupled with the poetic intensity of her sexuality makes her a striking character, unique in action and in thought, and the prose lilts in truly surprising ways as it navigates the plot’s more familiar tropes of love and desire, dedication and alienation. The book is a modern love story—global, queer, existential in its moral hierarchies—but it is also a rumination on those two most ancient of words: lover and mother ... A novel that lionizes the desire to be alone even as it recognizes the beauty and grace found within a family.
... sinewy if somewhat predictable ... Baltasar offers a great deal of insight into the effect of the pregnancy and the child’s birth on the characters, though the plot turns on tropes ... Still, this slim, visceral novel power gains power from its subversive blurring of maternal intuition and its queering of parenthood.