Alone again in a Chile punctuated by graves, footsteps, x-rays, and crosses, Nancy looks back on her life. Before her cancer, before her husband’s ridiculous death, before she fled home hidden in the back of a truck, she spent her youth at Playa Roja, hearing the rumors of disappeared girls and dead boys while swimming alongside her friends and the creepy old gringos. Her family lost to religion, alcohol, and violence, Nancy has been forced to fend for herself in a world designed to crush her. She keeps going despite it all.
The emotions of the text are raw and heart-wrenching to the point where it nearly becomes downright depressing ... But such a condemnation of the novel would overlook its purpose: critiquing the powers in society that cause the lives of so many Chileans to be so dismal. Indeed, Nancy is, at its heart, a social commentary, and the blows that send its protagonist to her lonely end are Lloret’s attempt at drawing attention to the flaws of modern Chilean society. Lloret’s harsh criticism of heavy industry (e.g. mining, canning) and Christian denominations that consume the lives of Chileans are particularly damning, as he frames these powers as taking advantage of the most vulnerable members of society: those who struggle to just put food on the table ... At the heart of what makes Nancy so evocative is Lloret’s writing, which is as thoughtful as it is poetic ... The tone is resigned and rather void of emotion, and yet Lloret’s final product truly is artful. His (and the translator Ellen Jones’) word choice is such that with even one short sentence he shows himself capable of conjuring up breathtaking images of arid salt flats, distant mountains, expansive beaches, and post-apocalyptic towns. But perhaps what is most impressive about Lloret’s writing is the rich religious symbolism that he weaves throughout the novel, combining it with shocking images of despair and desperation to convey a clear and powerful critique of society ... Lloret’s use of el Cruceo is particularly effective when it breaks up dialogue or action, adding an element of silence into the text that changes the meaning of the words around it. It is what allows Lloret to develop subtext and evoke so much emotion with short and terse sentences; indeed, el Cruceo truly is a crucial part of the novel’s success ... a unique read deserving of any thoughtful reader’s attention. Its descriptions are rich, its emotions moving, and its symbolism profound. On top of all that, Lloret’s use of el Cruceo adds an extra element of creatively interactive storytelling between the reader and the text. In sum, it is an engaging work that will leave its readers pondering its themes long after they’ve finished the final page, powerfully drawing attention to harms done to everyday Chileans by merciless heavy industry and domineering religious groups.
... written sparely, subdued in tone if not in depth of feeling. Scattered across each page are bold X’s, a mark of punctuation that carries more weight than the period. They don’t impair comprehension of the narrative but rather cast a subtle shadow, calling to mind a graveyard of nameless crosses, or marks on a map—death as the ultimate destination. The first and final pages of the novel feature these marks in a half-hourglass and hourglass pattern, and the shape of each individual X, as they stalk the story and linger between thoughts, echoes the notion of convergence and divergence, time left and time lost ... the environment characterizes the narrative to a striking extent ... Ellen Jones makes this difficult translation look easy—in one standout case, rendering the extremely local and abbreviated dialect of one character, Jesulé, in a compact, slangy English that successfully communicates the unique relationship he shares with Nancy. She also smartly retains many Spanish phrases ... Jones’ skill extends from the language all the way down to this deliberate, fraught punctuation ... Even as they visually interrupt the narrative, the X’s on every page contribute to a deliberate pacing, both swift and pensive, that makes for quick read with plenty of room to reflect. In the forced pauses—the deep, still pools in Nancy’s stream of consciousness—you can almost hear her stop to catch her breath or look out a dusty window as she gathers her thoughts.
... stark, unvarnished ... The bolded x’s that typographically scar the novel accrue a multiplicity of meanings. As well as defamiliarising the text, they guide the reading much as does the blank space around, and line breaks in, a poem – they impel where you place your focus, how many beats a sentence is given to resonate in your mind. This is especially the case for the exquisite opening and closing sections, where time is compressed and the enjambment of the spare prose builds a hypnotic rhythm ... If there is a flaw in Nancy, it is that for the most part the reminiscences of childhood and adolescence are neatly chronological, and footnoted; sometimes the fact that the scenes are being evoked by a remembering mind is lost ... Yet Ellen Jones’s translation is attuned to the asperous beauty of everyday language, and Lloret’s evocations of place, the intensity of his narrative, and his experimentation with form are resplendent.