Worlds blend rapidly in Daniel Loedel’s debut, Hades, Argentina. As the novel opens in 1986, Tomás Orilla, living as Thomas Shore in New York City, has “spent eight years officially disappeared.” But his world begins to crack open when he is called back to Argentina for the first time since 1976, the year of his torture and escape.
He travels to Buenos Aires for a funeral that yields to a search for a lost love and the desire to revisit and reexamine the past. Like Orpheus seeking Eurydice, Tomás accepts a challenge from his old mentor, the Colonel, and returns to the places and events of 1976 to see what could have been, and how one choice could change fates.
As Tomás reenters the world of Argentina’s dirty war, time blurs, and the surreal blends with reality. As he relives trauma and torture, readers experience it with him, seeing a slice of history that is rarely talked about and feeling immersed in the ways that love, guilt and regret drive so many decisions.
Loedel’s prose is clean, tight and engaging, with a rhythm that invites you to keep reading and to see where the story goes and what sense you can make of it. Most interesting, perhaps, are the questions posed: What does it mean to be a hero or to be complicit in a dangerous regime? What choices do we really have? Who are we, and who did we imagine we would become?
Even as the novel invites questions and focuses on language rather than answers, the reader won’t be able to look away. They will bear witness to human choice and compunction, to love and loss, to the fantasy that helps make sense of what is real.