Laid off from his job, Damián Lobo obsessively imagines himself as a celebrity being interviewed on TV. After committing an act of petty theft at an antiques market, he finds himself trapped inside a wardrobe and delivered to the seemingly idyllic home of a husband, wife, and their internet-addicted teenage daughter. There, he sneaks from the shadows to serve as an invisible butler, becoming deeply and disastrously involved with his unknowing host family.
...an entertainingly presented look at social isolation and dependency, the search for a role in life, and in others' lives ... It all works quite well, and certainly makes for an entertaining little tale ... Yet From the Shadows ultimately also feels a bit insubstantial -- perhaps appropriate, considering Lobo is meant to be such a shadow of a character ...a solid story but somehow not entirely convincing as a novel; indeed, feeling more like a (pleasantly) drawn-out short story. Gossamer light -- with even any ugliness or evil barely having any depth, a sense reïnforced by Lobo's almost entirely untroubled journey...the narrative in From the Shadows feels almost too anecdotal; perhaps that's what he was going for -- certainly with the TV interviewers, since that's their style --, but it ultimately does limit the resonance of the story. Still, this is a good, quick read, all the more gripping for the sustained tension of possible discovery -- of Lobo's presence in the household, as well as more personal discoveries among the various, each in their way troubled, characters.
...[a] brief, elusive novel ... What I love about this book, in its low-key translation from the Spanish by Thomas Bunstead and Daniel Hahn, is the way that the story, which begins as entertaining slapstick, subtly metamorphoses into fable ... Damián becomes a living ghost—'closer to being a thought than a flesh-and-blood human being'—and as his vivid imaginary world fuses with reality this deceptively ethereal novel advances toward a dark and startling finale.
With what appears to be an absurdist plot, Millás explores the psyche of an individual made redundant by society ... Millás’ prose switches between the physical world and the make-believe TV studio seamlessly, showing both dimensions to be concrete realities to Damián ... Damián’s desire to belong, which ultimately leads to tremendous consequences for the family, is indicative of the ramifications of modern-day solitude From the Shadows seeks to portray. Like the existence of ghosts, simultaneously manifest and invisible, the novel articulates our contradictory impulses to withdraw and express ourselves, and the ease with which we descend from the ordinary to the perverse. It may be difficult to embrace Damián for his aberration, but Millás’ unflinching narration shows all the more our willingness to go to great lengths to salvage our significance in the world, however meagre and tenuous.