Author: Javier Vidal
- ISBN: 9788415009450
- Release Date: 01-01-2015
-Reviewed by: Kenneth Barger
Junto a los campos de trigo is Javier Vidal’s first novel, written at the rhythm of a page a day over the course of six months. Narrated in the first person, it tells the tale of Juan, a young man whose father has just died and who sets out to seek closure, or reconciliation, or something—he’s not sure what. He meets Samuel, an ultra-rich friend of his father who he didn’t know existed, and travels from Spain to Miami to spend some time with him. The two embark on a more or less aimless adventure, and little by little, Juan finds the answers to the questions he didn’t know he had.
This is a meditation on death, both in the abstract and the personal. It has a compelling narrative style and an engaging main character, but it seems unfinished, as it suffers from underdeveloped characters and plotlines, as well as too-frequent mechanical and spelling errors.
Much of the story takes place in Juan’s mind, in the form of musings on life, death, and relationships, punctuated by his adventures throughout Florida with his new friend and the banalities of daily life. The author/narrator ably takes the reader from the abstract to the concrete, sometimes indulging in a bit of wry, usually rather dark, humor. Details of Juan’s father’s life and death are revealed a bit at a time, drawing the reader in as the mystery unravels.
Juan’s self-deprecation, shyness, and willingness to embark on unlikely adventures make him a likeable character. Samuel, too, is intriguing and charismatic, and shrouded in just enough mystery to keep the reader engaged.
The women in the story, in particular, remain mostly in the background. Juan’s mother and sister grieve his deceased father alongside him. Silvia jumps on top of him for a borderline gratuitous sex scene that does very little to advance the plot. And apparently he has an ex-girlfriend who broke his heart, but we never learn more than that about her.
Vidal’s writing style is crisp and well-paced, and he uses some innovative narrative devices that work rather well.