The Live-Ins

The first novel of a beautiful trilogy based on the author’s own experiences and loaded with nostalgia, fantasy and pain.

A woman and her adolescent son live shut away in the room of an apartment in Villa Frei, Santiago. She suffers from panic attacks and her lungs are inflamed from cigarettes, but no doubt her greatest damage comes from her long years of work as a housemaid and the ill treatment she has received from her brother’s family and many others who previously welcomed her with enthusiasm. These are the “live-ins” at the heart of this painfully beautiful novel, which combines realism and gothic fantasy in a completely natural way. Here the Chilean landscape of the ’80s overlaps with another more feverishly demential world, in which a vampire is capable of anticipating the future. This story, a kind of novel within the novel, is the one the young narrator writes and draws during his sleepless nights, as a method of evasion from his harsh reality or a projection of his own condition as a “live-in”: someone who survives at the expense of others and at the same time struggles to become invisible, cast no reflection, make no sound, go totally unnoticed.

“I don’t hear anyone, just go in,” my mother whispers next to the door. She turns the handle carefully, without making a sound. It’s a technique refined over the years. Her slender wrist moves to the right and in an act of magic that silences the rasping mechanism of the lock, she nudges aside the shield that separates us from anguish. The horror is so discreet and invisible that it could be interpreted as the invention of a feverish mind. But my old lady and I have spent years picking up on it. Years learning to live with it. Afraid".

Ernesto Garratt