Editor’s Note: It’s a good time to read – we’ve a deep need to feel connected, need something to do when everything’s closed, or perhaps just require distraction from anxiety and fear. So we’re asking Mainers to tell us, in their own words, what they’re reading during these pandemic times and why. This week we bring you MATT SWANSON, Book Buyer at Longfellow Books in Portland.

Cover courtesy of New Directions

“Lately I’ve been reading ‘Hurricane Season,’ the recently translated, English-language debut novel from Fernanda Melchor.

“The extraordinary times we’re living in have forced a degree of isolation on everyone. Modern society tends in that direction; we’re increasingly able to go through our days in relative solitude, subsisting on superficial digital connections and operating within homogeneous spheres of our own making. The current global crisis has underscored that isolation with reinforced physical distancing, and maybe opened our eyes to our profound need for community, empathy and understanding.

“A novel originally written in Spanish, and translated by Sophie Hughes, ‘Hurricane Season’ is the story of a death in a small, rural Mexican town, and the reverberations that echo through its residents. An old, secretive woman with a sordid past is found dead — murdered? — in a nearby canal, and the novel’s eight narrators are left trying to make sense of their lives and her legacy. The book is dark, chaotic and violent, each chapter a torrent of suspicions and recollections, of memories and emotions unearthed by tragedy.

“In these stressful times it feels appropriate to read fiction that rises to the same emotional intensity that we’re feeling – but more importantly, to read something that helps bridge the gap: to other people, other places, other cultures than our own. What comes through most strongly, despite the unfamiliar details of these characters’ lives, is how their hopes and lamentations resonate as familiar and profoundly human.”

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