Synopses & Reviews
One of The Rumpus’s Most Anticipated Books of 2021
For seven-year-old M, the world is guided by a firm set of principles, based on her father D’s life as a traveling salesman. Enchanted by her father’s trade, M convinces him to take her along on his routes, selling hardware supplies against the backdrop of Pinochet-era Chile. As father and daughter trek from town to town in their old Renault, M’s memories and thoughts become tied to a language of rural commerce, philosophy, the cosmos, hardware products, and ghosts. M, in her innocence, barely notices the rising tensions and precarious nature of their work until she and her father connect with an enigmatic photographer, E, whose presence threatens to upend the unusual life they’ve created.
María José Ferrada expertly captures a vanishing way of life and a father-daughter relationship on the brink of irreversible change. At once nostalgic, dangerous, sharply funny, and full of delight and wonder, How to Order the Universe is a richly imaginative debut and a rare work of magic and originality.
"This quick and quirky book is as charming as it is unsettling, as appealing as it is wise." Kirkus (starred review)
"A moving tribute to childhood, Ferrada’s novel is an enthralling tale of resilience, deception, and trauma during a dark time in Chile’s history." Publishers Weekly
"How to Order the Universe is a dreamscape of a book. In an assured and striking voice, María José Ferrada tells the story of M, a girl who skips school to join her traveling salesman father on the road. Along the way, M witnesses tragedy, desire, secrecy, and grief as she finds her own truths and learns to separate her father’s disappointments from her own. I adored this compelling, wise, and utterly unique coming-of-age tale." Tara Conklin, author of The Last Romantics
About the Author
María José Ferrada's children's books have been published all over the world. How to Order the Universe has been or is being translated into Italian, Brazilian Portuguese, Danish, and German, and is also being published all over the Spanish-speaking world. Ferrada has been awarded numerous prizes, such as the City of Orihuela de Poesía, Premio Hispanoamericano de Poesía para Ninos, the Academia Award for the best book published in Chile, and the Santiago Municipal Literature Award, and is a three-time winner of the Chilean Ministry of Culture Award. She lives in Santiago, Chile.
Elizabeth Bryer is a translator and writer from Australia. Her translations include Claudia Salazar Jiménez's Americas Prize-winning Blood of the Dawn; Aleksandra Lun's The Palimpsests, for which she was awarded a PEN/Heim Translation Fund grant; and José Luis de Juan's Napoleon's Beekeeper. Her debut novel, From Here On, Monsters, is out now through Picador.