I received a copy of this book from my MPS sales rep, Bob, because (if I recall correctly) there weren't any more ARCs of the book. This book caught my eye because it was published to great critical acclaim in Mexico by a major poet, dramatist, and journalist, and yet I'd never heard of her. Such is the myopathy of American readers like me, much to our discredit.
This is the story of Karen Nieto, an autistic child who runs wilder than the feral dogs & cats of her neighborhood until around the age of eight. Unspeaking, and thus unable to give voice to the unspeakable horrors she has survived at the hands of her mother, she learns language at the hands of her aunt. Her aunt is the new mistress of her family's fishery & cannery, Consuelo Tuna, and as Karen learns to speak and to navigate the bewildering social world of humans, she discovers an affinity for thinking like fish. For the first time in her life, Karen has somebody who encourages her to think of what she can accomplish, rather than be fettered by her differences.
The obvious parallel for me was Temple Grandin, and I kept flashing back to what I know of Grandin from the bibopic made of her life (sadly, I never read any of Grandin's books). Both young women have difficulty in college in their identical fields of study. Like Grandin's special cattle cage that she crawls into during times of stress, Karen puts on a wetsuit and then suspends herself from a ceiling harness. Like Grandin, who could visualize animals' fear in the abbatoir and devised far more humane methods of slaughter, Karen can see things from the tuna's point of view and she revamps the entire fishing industry.
So while certain plot points may feel familiar based on what I know of Temple Grandin's life, the main thing underlying this book is Karen's success on her terms in a world that befuddles, irritates, and scares her. I also think that it is a triumph of translation, as Karen's first-person voice is clear and consistent, so brava to Lisa Dillman for her work on this novel, too. People who have read and enjoyed The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night will know what I mean about reading Karen's distinctive first person voice.
NB: I requested and received a comp copy of this book from my sales rep, Bob, when I placed my summer '12 frontlist order. I don't believe any ARCs were available, so the copy I read was a finished copy. It's published by Holt.