The Bitch by Colombian writer Pilar Quintana is a devastating portrayal of the aching, unbearable weight that can be felt from guilt, violence, the drive to nurture and the need for human connection.
Damaris lives on a bluff overlooking Colombia's Pacific coast. Her inability to become pregnant, which has rocked her marriage to an emotionally unavailable fisherman, continues to gut her. She spends most days alone, cleaning for the rich Reyes family, whose son she saw carried away by the sea when they were seven. Her uncle whipped her until the body surfaced, and still she feels the blame, just as she still cries for the mother she lost at 14. Damaris adopts a puppy that seems to remedy the "stabbing pain... in her soul," until it disappears for a month. Damaris rejoices at the dog's return, nursing her back to health, only for her pet to run away again. When the pattern continues, Damaris pushes cold and hard against her pain, turning violent.
Quintana presents Damaris's traumatic past, faltering marriage and broken heart via cutting third-person prose that zeroes in on Damaris's nosediving thoughts. An atmosphere darkened by storms and her husband's absences remarkably parallels Damaris's troubled, unchallenged self-image--that she is "a disgrace as a woman, a freak of nature." Damaris, perhaps because of her self-perceived destructiveness, at times can't distinguish herself from the nearby jungle, "as if the cacophony of frogs and crickets" comes "from inside her head." The Bitch is a tragically honest portrait of how heartache can break a person. --Samantha Zaboski, freelance editor and reviewer