The Promise, by Silvina Ocampo, is a fascinating work. Ostensibly, it's about a woman on a ship journeying across the Atlantic. She falls overboard and is left behind, floating in the ocean. She makes a promise (thus, the title) to Saint Rita ("arbiter of the impossible") that if she survives she will write her life's story. She begins to recount episodes in her life. This takes up 99% of the work. The ending is ambiguous, as if the work itself slowly drifts away ...

Of course, that's not really what the book is about. The falling in the ocean bit is a metaphor. Something has happened to our narrator, some life altering event, perhaps the realization of her impending death. (Ocampo suffered from dementia the last several years of her life; this may have been her way of dealing with it.)

Ocampo was the wife of Adolfo Bioy Casares, a close friend and collaborator of Jorge Luis Borges (who called her work brilliant). She writes much like Clarice Lispector, so if you love Lispector you are bound to appreciate Ocampo. The Promise was not published in her lifetime and no one knows if she completed it to her satisfaction, though it seems like a perfect work of art to me.

If you like works that are out of the ordinary, works that make you think, works that force you to re-read them, read this book. (I liked it so much, I immediately read it a second time!)