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The Trace


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A Mexican road novel of love, hate, drugs, and the Mexican Revolution.

The Trace is a masterful, poetic novel about a journey through Mexico taken by a couple recovering from a world shattered. Driving through the Chihuahua Desert, they retrace the route of nineteenth-century American writer Ambrose Bierce (who disappeared during the Mexican Revolution) and try to piece together their lives after a devastating incident involving their adolescent son. With tenderness and precision, Gander explores the intimacies of their relationship as they travel through Mexican towns, through picturesque canyons and desertcapes, on a journey through the the heart of the Mexican landscape. Taking a shortcut through the brutally hot desert home, their car overheats miles from nowhere, the novel spinning out of control, with devastating consequences. . . . Poet Forrest Gander’s first novel As a Friend was acclaimed as “profound and relentlessly beautiful (Rikki Ducornet). With The Trace, Gander has accomplished another brilliant work, containing unforgettable poetic descriptions of Mexico and a story both violent and tender.


“Gander's poetic writing lends this story a dense, brooding atmosphere; a carefully crafted novel of intimacy and isolation.” — The New Yorker

“Gander shows he is keenly aware of the loneliness that imbues human suffering and sets grief alight using beautiful, tense, haunting prose. As the well-paced plot creeps ever forward, the mysterious events at the beginning of the book are slowly revealed, resulting in an incendiary denouement that comes as a relief, but one not without each character’s sacrifices.” — Publishers Weekly, (starred review)

“I haven’t read many novels as spooky and sublime and psychologically acute as Forrest Gander’s The Trace. It’s the portrait of a couple in crisis and their misguided road trip through the Chihuahua desert, on the tracks of the writer Ambrose Bierce. Gander’s landscapes are lyrical and precise (‘raw gashed mountains, gnarly buttes of andesite’), and his study of a marriage on the rocks is as empathetic as it is unsparing.” — Robyn Creswell, The Paris Review

The Trace is a rule-breaking work of fierce imagination and rich, associative thinking. Love, landscape, poetry, pain—these draw Gander’s characters to the edge of the void. Paying attention to detail—its accumulation and its demands—is what keeps them from toppling in.” — John McElwee, The Oxford American

“Gander's novel surges. No other writer that I know of has so accurately and carefully depicted the tiny internecine battles of two lovers on an interminable drive as Gander does in this book.” — Lowry Pressly, Los Angeles Review of Books

“His work burrows into the particularities of disparate places and cultures in order to sound the differences between them.” — The Boston Review

“A moving elegy. It is also proof that language has magical potential.” — Joanna Scott

“The clarity of his artistic vision, formal innovation, and emotional honesty are enviable.” — The Harvard Review

The Trace is a tense, propulsive thriller, which keeps on building until the very last page.” — Hari Kunzru

“In this strange and beautiful novel as in life, love is part of what is sacred.” — Jeanette Winterson, New York Times Book Review

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