V IS FOR VENEZUELA
I’m writing a novel with an underage protagonist making sense of a messy country and it’s often easy to lose track of how someone so young and inexperienced can be a successful guide to a nation on the brink of collapse. So I need occasional reminders. And Blue Label, an angst-ridden bildungsroman/road trip/musical lament, that’s bone dry funny, saccharine sweet, and so smartly done, was a genius example of how a character’s naivety, lack of awareness, or adolescent prejudice can serve as an accomplished, wide perspective into the socio-political complexities of the backdrop.
Eugenia Blanc, an adolescent who’s smarter than she may know, leaves for a road trip with her enigmatic classmate, with the sole purpose of finding her grandfather, who may or may not hold the key to her leaving Venezuela for good. What follows is an electric journey with an offbeat cast of characters that might only last for as long as a case of Blue Label whiskey, but will, in fact, have a major impact on all of Eugenia’s life.
I finished Blue Label sobbing, with the taste of strawberry lip balm and cigarettes on my lips. There are imperfections in the novel, which is haphazard, messy, rushes and takes wrong turns, but at large it is perfect, an instant cult classic.
Blue Label by Eduardo Sánchez Rugeles
Translated from Spanish by Paul Filev
Published by Turtle Point Press in 2018