Among the Hedges
by Sara Mesa
Soon, who is almost fourteen years old, has been skipping school and spending her days hidden among the hedges in a local park, listening to music and reading women’s magazines. One day, a fifty-year-old man stumbles upon her hiding place, and the two strike up a friendship. He tells her about birds and Nina Simone, buys her soda and chips, and spends almost every day talking with her.
Despite their age gap, there’s something childlike about Old Man that leads Soon to believe that he’s not like the other men she’s encountered, the “dangerous ones.” But he has a number of secrets in his past—all of which would be of grave concern to Soon’s parents or any other adult who witnessed one of their rendezvous. As these secrets rise to the surface, the clock is ticking, the weather is growing cold, and the school is untangling Soon’s set of lies, setting up a moment where something has to give.
With spare, direct prose, Sara Mesa imbues these two outcasts with a great deal of warmth, raising questions about society’s prejudices and assumptions, and creating a truly moving novel of an “inappropriate” relationship.
Translated from the Spanish by Megan McDowell
About the Author:
Sara Mesa is the author of eight works of fiction, including Scar (winner of the Ojo Critico Prize), Four by Four (a finalist for the Herralde Prize), An Invisible Fire (winner of the Premio Málaga de Novela), and Cara de Pan (forthcoming from Open Letter). Her works have been translated into more than ten different languages, and has been widely praised for her concise, sharp writing style.
About the Translator:
Megan McDowell has translated many of the most important Latin American writers working today, including Samanta Schweblin and Alejandro Zambra. Her translations have won the English PEN award and the Premio Valle-Inclán, and been nominated three times for the International Booker Prize. Her short story translations have been featured in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Tin House, McSweeney’s, and Granta, among others. In 2020 she won an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She lives in Santiago, Chile.
Praise for Sara Mesa:
“With short, propulsive chapters, Sara Mesa creates an unforgettable gothic landscape, centered on the mysterious and menacing Wybrany College, that twists in ways that unsettle and thrill. In Four by Four, Mesa’s sentences are clear as glass, but when you look through you will be terrified by what you see.”—Laura van den Berg, author of The Third Hotel
“The atmospheric unraveling of the mystery will keep you turning the page; the ending will leave you stunned—Mesa’s Four by Four is a tautly written literary thriller that juxtaposes the innocence of children with the fetish of control; a social parable that warns against the silence of oppression and isolation through its disquieting, sparse prose.”—Kelsey Westenberg, Seminary Co-op
“Very few authors evoke a visceral reaction with prose in the way that Sara Mesa does. A master of tension building, Mesa constructs lurid phantasmagoric worlds that are equal parts mysterious and unnerving. Four by Four sounds an alarm on the dangers of power, privilege, and the self-delusions told in order to hide complicity. A work of high gothic art, Four by Four solidifies Mesa as one of the strongest female voices in contemporary Spanish literature.”—Cristina Rodriguez, Deep Vellum Books
“Stylistically, Four by Four’s narrative structure is both dazzling and dizzying, as its perfect pacing only enhances the metastasizing dread and dis-ease. . . . Mesa exposes the thin veneer of venerability to be hiding something menacing and unforgivable—and Four by Four lays it bare for all the world to see.”—Jeremy Garber, Powell’s Books
“Sara Mesa. Don’t forget that name. The finalist for the 30th Premio Herralde de Novela. Read it. Share it. Talk about it. Open the book and begin. You won’t be able to put it down.”—Uxue, Un libro al día
“Sara Mesa has brought a new narrative voice to the scene that is in a position to bear important fruit for the genre of the Spanish novel in the twenty-first century. Already in Four by Four an author has been discovered with the capacity for artistic integration of different stylistic registers within the same novel and with a real talent for representing reality. Four by Four is an account of the sinister relationships of power corrupted by fear and latent violence that feed this social parable of Kafkian roots.”—Ángel Basanta, El Mundo
“What can I say about a story in which everything works? . . . A new author that will surprise us further in future.”—Sergio Sancor, Libros y literatura