0 0 1 I WORK IN a bookstore — I know how a recommendation sounds. “You’ll love it. It’s so smart/funny/suspenseful/well written. The ending will break your heart.” That’s not how anybody talks about Jesús Carrasco’s runaway hit, Out in the Open . When I first started to hear about this book, I felt like I was listening to descriptions of some transcendent experience, maybe talking to a friend who’d just returned from a commune or gotten interested in psychedelics. “You have to experience it. It’ll swallow you up. I had no idea where I was when I finished it. I can’t describe it, but you’ll see.” Out in the Open is a novel about a boy who flees abuse in his drought-stricken hometown. He finds himself living on a scorching-hot plain, traveling with a deeply religious goatherd who teaches him survival skills both physical and spiritual. They are hunted, threatened, victimized over and over, but they have no way to turn back. There is no “back”; there’s just danger, drought, and God. Contemporary novels rarely engage so plainly with faith and physical suffering. Its characters are observant because to be unobservant, even for a moment, would be fatal. […]