Blood-Drenched Beard came into my life at an interesting time. The perfect time, really.
I recently left my office job to work freelance and picked up Blood-Drenched Beard on one of my frequent trips to the library. I have a habit of grabbing anything that looks interesting off the “new” shelf at my local library, and the cover of Blood-Drenched Beard caught my eye.
Now, I know you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but man, what a cover BDB has. The beautiful rainbow of colors juxtaposed with a title as ghastly as Blood-Drenched Beard is interesting enough, but there’s also a dog on the front. I love dogs, and I simply couldn’t resist taking this one home. I didn’t even read the back cover or inside flap to see what it was about, but went in completely blind.
BDB is the story of a young man trying to make a simple life by the sea. But life is anything but simple in the small town of Garopaba, where the locals are mistrustful of outsiders. Determined to find out more about his family’s past by investigating his grandfather’s death, our hero finds that this mistrust can quickly turn to hostility.
I took BDB with me on a recent trip to visit my grandmother out in the country. My grandfather died about a year ago, and that trip was the first time I’d been out to visit since he’s been gone. Everything felt wrong without him there. The constant whirring of machinery was missing, rendering the country landscape far too quiet and lonely. The furniture that had been rearranged to make it easier for him to watch his precious birds when it became hard for him to go outside was no longer even in the house, due to the sadness it made my grandmother feel. I kept expecting him to wander into the kitchen for a snack, as if he never left.
The discomfort that comes from a presence that defined a place no longer residing there is perfectly captured by Galera. The beautiful surface of everything is marred by that missing piece and its sad story. The prose paints a picture that is at once tense and serene, beautiful and terrifying.
Though the book’s ending was much less than satisfying, as a whole, I enjoyed it. It made me uncomfortable, reading it when I was in a place that made me feel so wistful and pensive, but it was a discomfort that made me think. I turned deep within myself when reading BDB and was forced to come to terms with my own ideas of memory and time, which — while unpleasant because of the ideas of mortality that inevitably accompany — was good for my sense of self.