For seven-year-old M, the world is guided by a firm set of principles, based on her father D's life as a traveling salesman. Enchanted by her father's trade, M convinces him to take her along on his routes, selling hardware supplies against the backdrop of Pinochet-era Chile.
How to Order the Universe is beautifully, delicately written. Much is left unsaid ... There is a cold sadness to this story of loss—the loss here much more than simply one of childish innocence ... The universe itself here is crushing—all the more effectively conveyed by Ferrada's contrasting and very delicate touch. It makes for a powerful and accomplished book.
M’s systematic attempts to make meaning out of her chaotic life may be futile, but they offer a canny insight into her magical mind ... Ferrada—a prizewinning Chilean children’s book author—cleverly pulls the curtain back at just the right moments to offer a more objective view of M’s young life, to track the story of her disenchantment. In elegant and simple prose, ably translated from the Spanish by Bryer, the author disperses clues to explain what M cannot, like the cause of her mother’s sadness. M’s logical thinking reflects the human instinct to create order out of chaos, but her coming-of-age is realized only once she begins to grasp her messy reality, the tragedies of her childhood, the consequences of her parents’ choices.You’ll find yourself at the end before you know it, still wondering if M finally found the order she craved.
Elizabeth Bryer's whimsical translation from the Spanish feels appropriate to M's exceptional perspective. Ferrada's playful, poignant novel...is fanciful, sweet and moving ... This is a beautifully translated, thought-provoking novel of profound themes and childlike wonder.