How to Order the Universe Summary and Reviews

How to Order the Universe

by María José Ferrada

How to Order the Universe by María José Ferrada X
How to Order the Universe by María José Ferrada
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  • Published in USA  Feb 2021
    180 pages
    Genre: Novels

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Book Summary

A richly imaginative debut, detailing a girl and her father finding their way - and themselves - while they work as traveling hardware salesmen in Pinochet-era Chile, is a rare work of magic and originality.

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 amid the backdrop of Pinochet-era Chile. As she becomes part of a tight-knit community of fellow salesmen and grifters, M is regaled with parables and anecdotes that inform her "parallel education," D's excuse for letting her skip school without M's mother's knowledge. 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 whimsical life they've created.

María José Ferrada masterfully describes years that pass in seconds, and moments that stretch into life-altering events. At once nostalgic, dangerous, and full of wonder, How to Order the Universe captures a vanishing way of life and a father-daughter relationship on the brink of irreversible change.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Ferrada, who has published several children's books, excels in her depictions of M's 7-year-old state of mind, her attempts to understand the world she's been born into...This quick and quirky book is as charming as it is unsettling, as appealing as it is wise." - Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"[A] pithy bildungsroman...Ferrada keeps the plot moving along with a winning combination of M's perceptiveness and innocence. 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

"Intimate, intense...Luminous and tender, How to Order the Universe is a novel about the love—filled with words unsaid—between a father and daughter who are caught up in the tides of change that engulf their ordinary, ordered way of life." - Foreword Reviews

"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

"Ferrada's novella has the poetic simplicity and dark wisdom of a fairytale. In it, we experience the machinations of repression during Chile's dictatorship through the eyes of a seven-year-old girl and, at the same time, through the adult version of this girl, who bears the burden of memory. Over the course of the story, both girl and woman attempt to understand the transience of existence and human connection. Ferrada gifts us with a story that is like an egg: complex in its simplicity, full of life and mystery. I wanted to hold it close, and with great care." - Frances de Pontes Peebles, author of The Air You Breathe

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María José Ferrada's children's books have been published all over the Spanish speaking world as well as internationally in Italy, Brazil and Japan. Ferrada has been awarded numerous prizes, such as the City of Orihuela de Poesía, the Cuatrogatos Foundation Award, the Academia Award for the best book published in Chile, the Municipality of Santiago Award, the Marta Award, and is a two-time winner of the Chilean Ministry of Culture Award.

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