Reviews > Published on February 23rd, 2016

Bookshots: 'Seeing Red' by Lina Meruane

Bookshots: Pumping new life into the corpse of the book review


Seeing Red

Seeing Red is so gorgeous in English, the translation by Megan McDowell maintaining the sense of poetry of language.

Who Wrote It?

Multiple International Award-winning Chilean-author Lina Meruane; translated into English by the very prolific Megan McDowell.


This is an autobiographical novel, or rather a novelization of the author's experiences going blind due to complications from diabetes. The narrator, Lina, loses her sight very suddenly, after years of care to preserve it, which sends her on a mission (both internal and external) to determine: what will she do if she can't get it back? With her partner, Ignacio, by her side, she travels to Chile and back, and endures surgeries, and never forgets her love of language and the written word.

Invent a New Title:

Honestly, and maybe it's a cop-out, but Seeing Red is a beautiful perfection of a title. I don't want to change it.

Read This Book If You Like(d):

Read this book if you like language. Read this book if you like poetry. Read this book if you like immersing yourself in another person's world, a world much trickier to navigate and understand than your own comfortable little space.

Read this book if you like Lidia Yuknavitch, but more on that in the verdict section.

Meet the Book's Lead(s):

Lina Meruane, our narrator and author, is a young writer of Chilean descent, living and working and going to school in New York City when she loses her sight due to complications from a lifetime of diabetes.

Ignacio is her partner, her love, the man who stands continually by her side. Also an academic, together they blow to pieces the stereotype of uneducated Hispanic immigrants, and I love this about them.

Said Lead(s) Would Be Played in a Movie By:

Lina has to be Rosario Dawson, mainly because I want to be Rosario Dawson.

Ignacio should be played by Javier Bardem, mainly because yum.

Setting (Would You Want To Live There?):

Much of the book takes place in New York City, and I'm always up for a swanky apartment up there. 

Another chunk takes place in various parts (cities and beach towns) of Chile, and it sounds haunting and sad and even a little devastated. I think I'd love to see it, but not live there.

What Was Your Favorite Sentence?

Oh God. This book is so full of amazing sentences. Do I have to pick just one?

Okay, fine.

That accent, so unmistakably Chilean, harbored the glacial poem of the mountain peaks and their snows in eternal mid-thaw, the dark whisper of the south dotted with giant rhubarbs, the mourning of roadside shrines, the herb-garden smell, the rough salts of the desert, the sulfurous copper shell of the mine open to the sky. The entire nation embodied in the bitter, uncertain tone of that traveler who suddenly, as I lifted my glasses, understood. Blind?

Whatever. That was three. But you see the beauty of language within this text, and why it's so hard to choose just one.

The Verdict:

My God, this book is beautiful. Lina Meruane writes with such care, such love, such painstaking choice of every word she uses. She writes the experience of her mind, of her body, of floating through a world she can no longer see. She writes of learning to be blind, to count her steps around her apartment and around the city so she can navigate this newer, bleaker world. She never loses the beauty, though, of the love of her partner Ignacio, or of the spoken and written world.

She writes like our dear friend, Lidia Yuknavitch, whose work The Chronology of Water seems similar to Seeing Red in its beauty and fearlessness. If you love Lidia like I do, you'll adore Lina Meruane. I promise.

Seeing Red is so gorgeous in English, the translation by Megan McDowell maintaining the sense of poetry of language. But Seeing Red is also the first book I've considered reading in its native Spanish. I don't speak Spanish, mind you. At least not fluently. But I'd love to hear the words in their native tongue flowing from my tongue, because I think, even with my mangled accent, it would be gorgeous. 

Seeing Red is beyond lovely. I'm so honored to have read it.

About the author

Leah Rhyne is a Jersey girl who's lived in the South so long she's lost her accent...but never her attitude. After spending most of her childhood watching movies like Star Wars, Aliens, and A Nightmare On Elm Street, and reading books like Stephen King's The Shining or It, Leah now writes horror and science-fiction. She lives with her husband, daughter, and a small menagerie of pets.

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