Martin is convinced that he has murdered his wife. In a delirium of guilt and grief, he wanders through a forest until he comes across an isolated farm run by Vitoria - an indomitable spinster who is 'afraid to live', and her flighty, obsessive cousin Ermelinda, who is terrified of death. As Martin works on Vitoria's land he is both haunted and comforted by memories of his wife and son. In the intense heat of the Brazilian summer, drought threatens both teh farm and its inhabitants, and these three very different but equally domineering characters provoke each other into a realisation of their individual psychological isolation.
Clarice Lispector (1920-1977) was one of Brazil's most acclaimed novelists. Her translator Gregory Rabassa recalled being 'flabbergasted to meet that rare person who looked like Marlene Dietrich and wrote like Virginia Woolf,' and Lispector is without doubt a natural and accomplished successor to Woolf, with her modernist, stream-of-consciousness style of writing.