Small Damages
Small Damages
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Beth Kephart
ISBN 9780399257483
Philomel/Penguin, 2012.
5 stars
Keywords: beth-kephart family friendship grief history pregnancy small-damages spain

Small Damages
by Beth Kephart

Beth Kephart's (You Are My Only) life-affirming story describes the summer after Kenzie's senior year, when she decides to give birth rather than end her pregnancy.

Her father's death, months before, is Kenzie's first great loss. She wants to give birth and create a new life. Her mother sends Kenzie to southern Spain, where a college friend knows someone who wants Kenzie's child. Kenzie's kind host, 61-year-old Miguel, raises Spain's best bulls at his estate, Los Nietos, for the world-renowned bullfights in Seville. Kenzie helps Estela, whom Miguel calls "our queen," in the kitchen. And Esteban is the 18-year-old horseman. Kenzie asks many questions but learns she must earn their answers.

Kephart beautifully captures the way people communicate when they do not know each other or speak each other's languages. Conversations evoke the spareness of scenes from The Sun Also Rises, the long shadows stretching in the silences, the religion of the bullfight. "When reading Hemingway watch the pronouns," Kenzie's English teacher told her. "We should have been more careful," is the way Kenzie breaks the news to Kevin. "What are your choices?" he responds. Estela and Miguel and Esteban are a part of all that they know and all that they do, and they teach this to Kenzie in a way that fills her. Eager to see what Kenzie will do, we also wish to slow down, breathe in the smell of Estela's paella, the scent of the orange trees. As soon as the book ends, we want to begin it again.

This review originally appeared in Shelf Awareness for Readers.
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