“August” by Romina Paula [Why This Book Should Win]

This entry in the Why This Book Should Win series is from BTBA judge and University Bookstore bookseller Caitlin Baker.

August by Romina Paula, translated from the Spanish by Jennifer Croft (Argentina, Feminist Press)

I initially picked up August because of its beautiful cover and then I read the first sentence.

It was something about wanting to scatter your ashes, something about wanting to scatter you.

The first sentence of August is perfect, it is beautiful, meditative, and for that reason alone August should win the BTBA 2018. Ah, but that would be cheating and August contains so many gorgeous sentences.

In August Emilia travels back to Patagonia to scatter the ashes of her best friend, Andrea, who committed suicide five years earlier. As I read August I felt as though I was eavesdropping on an intimate monologue spoken by Emilia to her dead friend.

Your dad tells me that it’s legal to exhume the body, your body, that you can finally be exhumed and, I mean dealt with.

What August does so well is get into the heart of grief and how grief can swallow one whole.

I don’t know if it’s the white wine that makes it happen or what, I mean my shaking, because I’ve been able to say your name for a while without losing my composure, even been able to talk about what happened, about what happened to you, to say after the death of rather than after the thing with, which as we know tends to lead to confusion.

Once back in her hometown, Emilia stays with Andrea’s parents, wears Andrea’s clothes, and sleeps with her cat. Emilia revisits music and movies they both loved five years ago.

August is a devastating, yet beautiful book, and one of the best books about navigating through the all-consuming fog of grief that I’ve read. For that reason, its gorgeous sentences, and exploration of teenage female friendship, August deserves to win the BTBA 2018. I eagerly await more books by Romina Paula in the future.

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