Javier Castillo was born with the strange ability to disappear; it takes up to three minutes. Rosa Blanco sits in her small kitchen, replaying a moment from the past over and over again. Leenck is aware of his impending death, but no one is aware of him. C. Dale Young’s fiction debut The Affliction: A Novel in Stories weaves together the lives of these characters, lives lived in the cracks and seams of cities like Los Angeles and Santa Monica. Reminiscent of Julia Alvarez and Manuel Muñoz, The Affliction makes audible the voices we have heard “whispering in the air as the sun left the sky.”
Young, the prize-winning author of four collections of poetry, deftly explores the inexplicable as it haunts the everyday: “What I know clearly is that the rain pelted everything, and the deck, the dock, the very earth between the boat and my father’s small house, suddenly took on the dark stain of rainwater, a stain not quite as dark as the heart, a stain not quite as dark as blood.” Young writes of people who know what it is to be disappeared—desaparecidos—and of those who know what it is to have to hide. He renders the grueling, distorting effect of such disappearances on individuals and on those who know them in love or fear or wonder. The Affliction provides powerful testament to the notion of stories as resistance to loss. This is a book of necessary, clear-hearted affirmation in troubled times.
From “The Fortunate,” from The Affliction: A Novel in Stories:
Some are good at digging up the past, and some are gifted with the ability to divine the future. Most people live squarely in the present without even the slightest knowledge that all of time coexists, that each era is simply a thin rind circling the current moment. Rosa Blanco was one of those people who lived in the present, but she was always obsessing about the past and worrying about the future. In her small kitchen, she would, sometimes for hours, replay a moment in the past ten, maybe fifteen, times. Each time, she checked and rechecked what she had said, how she had said it, what she had done. But the old woman who lived a few doors away was a different type of woman. She lived for the future.
I won’t explain how I came to hear this part of the story. At this point, it is almost irrelevant. But suffice it to say, once you hear it you never forget. You keep it, embellish it, turn it over and over in your head like a cloudy gem you have been asked to examine and appraise. But it starts with Rosa Blanco. It all starts with Rosa Blanco. . . .
“The linked stories in C. Dale Young’s The Affliction send us off to a magical location, where the fantastical can seem both miraculous and ordinary. These tales treat life-and-death matters with a beautifully eloquent fervor, and, like the stories of Julio Cortázar, they remind us of how varied and unpredictable short stories, like the world itself, can be.” — Charles Baxter
“C. Dale Young’s stories masterfully illuminate the moments in which regret and longing and grace powerfully collide—and transform the topography of a life. The Affliction is an exhilarating collection: I emerged deeply grateful for the existence of this book.” — Laura van den Berg
“‘Tongue or no tongue, the truth always [comes] out.’ The Affliction unspools a history of disappearance and secrecy and traces how our personal lives can be haunted by ghosts not even of our making. One discrepancy, one exaggeration, or one florid recollection, Young suggests, and the reality we know can dissolve before our eyes. This is a fascinating, multilayered collection that thrillingly moves us to consider why the very act of telling a story—and making every detail loyal to both history and the heart—is truly ‘the gift of understanding.’” — Manuel Muñoz
“…Capturing a community, these linked stories open with ‘The Affliction,’ which details Javier Castillo’s astonishing ability to disappear and reappear at will….of course being invisible, like so many people in marginalized communities, is as disquieting as being among the ‘disappeared’ of Latin American history….A heartfelt and well-crafted work.” — Library Journal
“….(Young) consistently creates an effectively menacing mood, uniting all the strange stories in a satisfying manner.” Read the full review.
“…The Affliction is a haunting book, one that is rooted in a binding beautiful magic. Quite like Young’s characters, we are left charting their connections to the beauty and loss found on each page.” Read the full review.