The Shape of Bones

Daniel Galera, an influential Brazilian writer who won the 2013 São Paulo Prize for Blood-Drenched Beard, has written a gripping and tender coming-of-age novel about a successful young man wrestling with guilt and inactions of his past.

Hermano is an up-and-coming surgeon who uses mountain climbing as a meditative exercise to recharge his batteries. As Hermano leaves for an ice-climbing trip to Cerro Bonete with best friend Renan, he reflects on his real reasons for the trip. He hopes to escape his job, a comfortable marriage to a restless wife and a life "in third gear and cruising at about 25 miles an hour, almost completely unaware of what was going on around him, as if the eyes and limbs driving the car were controlled by an operations centre entirely independent of the one responsible for his incessant flow of thoughts." Hermano detours to his old Porto Alegre neighborhood to retrace guilty memories that resulted in the mundane quality of his adulthood. He recalls being a shy 15-year-old with obsessive, "crazy routines of bike rides, runs and solitary exercise" when he befriended bully and town thug Bonobo, and considers how this one relationship shaped the course of his adult life.

The contrast between past and present evokes both hope that memory can serve as a lesson to reverse life's present trajectory, and pain in the guilt of actions not taken. Galera's passages are beautifully crafted snapshots of nostalgic adolescent moments, when childhood innocence gives way to adult concerns. --Nancy Powell, freelance writer and technical consultant

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