An autobiographical novel that pieces together the kidnapping and murder of the author's grandfather, reflecting on the impact of private pain and public tragedy. Longlisted for the 2018 Man Booker International Prize.
...masterfully translated ... In elegant, flat prose, Ybarra links her grandfather's very public murder to her mother's swift and private death from colon cancer. In doing so, she puts the increasingly popular form of autofiction to exceptional use. The Dinner Guest is a seamless blend of art, politics, and private life ... The Dinner Guest takes on the floating spirit of a re-enactment. The novel is anxious to enter a past reality, but unable to do so. This anxiety gives fiction a purpose in a book that otherwise could have been a memoir. Ybarra uses her imagination as a literary battering ram, breaking down the door to the past ... The Dinner Guest has a helpless energy that novels like Karl Ove Knausgaard's My Struggle and Ben Lerner's Leaving the Atocha Station ... Ybarra is far from the first writer to use autofiction for political purposes ... But she makes that decision remarkably clearly, and executes it remarkably well ... The Dinner Guest operates as a fuller obituary, a memorial to both Ybarra's mother and her grandfather. It is a quiet act of public mourning, and of resistance to public memory.
... succinct and inventive ... Ybarra’s research is evident ... Ybarra brings us through the process with the objectivity and forensic eye of a true crime writer, allowing glimpses of poignancy through her connection to her subject ... Ybarra expertly blends techniques of fiction and non-fiction ... The tone of her debut has the conversational appeal of a really well written blog; it makes the reader think about the subjects and connect with their plight ... the writing sparkles throughout ... Although short on word count, by the end of The Dinner Guest, Ybarra has done herself and her family proud in a story that is full of light and shade.
... a bold examination of silence and mortality ... The short, declarative sentences of Natasha Wimmer’s translation reflect the direct, minimalist prose of the Spanish original, a style Ybarra chose partly to allow her some distance.