Title: Small Damages
Author: Beth Kephart
Genre: YA contemporary fiction
Publisher: Philomel Books
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Source: Print copy from my personal library
First line: The streets of Seville are the size of sidewalks, and there are alleys leaking off from the streets.
Goodreads blurb: It’s senior year, and while Kenzie should be looking forward to prom and starting college in the fall, she is mourning the loss of her father. She finds solace in the one person she trusts, her boyfriend, and she soon finds herself pregnant. Kenzie’s boyfriend and mother do not understand her determination to keep the baby. She is sent to southern Spain for the summer, where she will live out her pregnancy as a cook’s assistant on a bull ranch, and her baby will be adopted by a Spanish couple.
Alone and resentful in a foreign country, Kenzie is at first sullen and difficult. She begins to open her eyes and her heart to the beauty that is all around her and inside of her.
It has been over a week since I finished Small Damages, and yet typing this, I can still feel the experience of being enveloped in Beth Kephart’s beautiful novel. I can feel the dust beneath my bare feet, hear the flamenco music, smell the oranges, taste the anchovies. It is very unlikely that I’ll ever visit Spain, but I feel like I already have memories of the place, thanks to this book. Beth obviously loves Spain, and every page is suffused with that love and longing.
The setting in Small Damages is a character in and of itself, but there are many other people to love in its pages: fierce and faithful Estela; strong, solid Esteban; and the broken – yet determined – Kenzie.
Beth’s books are often small, and I am astonished by how much she can make me know the people in her books with just a few words, just a whisper of plot. Her books are lyrical and poetic, and they make me want to write, to try to put myself down on paper the way she does. I wish that more people knew her work; she is a treasure.