It started with a drowning. Deep in the heart of Mexico City, where five houses cluster around a sun-drenched courtyard, lives Ana, a precocious twelve-year-old still coming to terms with the mysterious death of her little sister years earlier. Over the rainy, smoggy summer she decides to plant a vegetable garden in the courtyard, and as she digs the ground and plants her seeds, her neighbors in turn delve into their past. As the ripple effects of grief, childlessness, illness and displacement saturate their stories, secrets seep out and questions emerge - Who was my wife? Why did my mom leave? Can I turn back the clock? And how could a girl who knew how to swim drown? Using five voices to tell the singular story of life in an inner city mews, Umami is a quietly devastating novel of missed encounters, missed opportunities, missed people, and those who are left behind. Compassionate, surprising, funny and inventive, it deftly unpicks their stories to offer a darkly comic portrait of contemporary Mexico, as whimsical as it is heart-wrenching.
'A wonderfully surprising novel, powered by wit, exuberance and nostalgia.' Chloe Aridjis, author of Book of Clouds and Asunder 'Ms Jufresa: Where the f*#! did you learn to tell a story so well?' Alvaro Enrigue, author of Sudden Death
Laia Jufresa was born in Mexico City, grew up in the cloud forest of Veracruz, and spent her adolescence in Paris. In 2001, she returned to Mexico City and discovered she didn't know how to cross a street. She's been writing fiction ever since. Laia's work has been featured in several anthologies and magazines such as Letras Libres, Pen Atlas, Words Without Borders and McSweeney's, and she was named one of the most outstanding young writers in Mexico as part of the project Mexico20. In 2015 she was invited by the British Council to be the first ever International Writer in Residence at the Hay Festival of Literature. She currently lives in Cologne, Germany. Sophie Hughes is a literary translator and editor living in Mexico City.