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A collection of mystical fables follows the experiences of extraordinary women who share a common strength in the form of feminine intuitive powers, which enable them to find resolve in the face of adversity.
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Ã ngeles Mastretta is the author of the novels Tear This Heart Out and Lovesick, which was the recipient of the prestigious Romulo Gallegos Prize.From The Washington Post:
I've never found chicken soup especially satisfying, whether it's the actual broth or the brief anecdotes that are supposed to nourish the souls of (choose one) moms, dads, grandparents, nurses, teachers, horse lovers or (I am not inventing this) ocean lovers. Consequently, I may be exactly the wrong person to offer an opinion on Mexican writer Angeles Mastretta's collection of short stories, Women with Big Eyes (which comes in both English translation and the original Spanish). There are 37 stories and 39 women in the 189 pages that fill the English-language half of the book, and the result is a lot of five-page tales with all the heft of the literary baubles that have made the chicken soup series a small industry.
Each of the yarns is named for the woman -- or aunt -- who serves as the story's star: There is Aunt Leonor, who "had the world's most perfect belly button," and Aunt Charo with "a restless back and a porcelain nape." Aunt Cristina "wasn't pretty, but something about her slim legs and breathy voice made her interesting," while Aunt Natalia, "she of the short legs and round breasts, fell in love with the sea." The women are not exactly wild, but most are exuberant and erotic and a whole lot smarter than their husbands and lovers and doctors and (yes) kidnappers. If they don't learn a valuable lesson themselves in the course of 500 to 1,000 words, they impart a critical bit of wisdom to their families:
"Love, like eternity, is a yearning." "You can't use up your affection." "Don't ruin the present mourning the past or worrying about the future." Or, this little pearl of self-improvement: "When I am old I want my face not to be sad. I want to have laugh lines and take them with me to the other world. Because who knows what we'll have to face there?" Nevertheless, Mastretta can also be subtle, and she is an immensely gifted stylist. When she gives her stories enough space, her sly and irreverent sense of humor shines as brightly as her characters, and these longer tales are considerably more interesting and complex.
There is Aunt Mariana, for example, who considers ending her affair with her gentle, silent lover from Chipilo one afternoon, after she fears that she has spied two heads in her husband's automobile when he was supposed to be alone. She knows this can't be, however, and so, driven by her own troubled conscience, she races after her hardworking spouse's Mercedes to confess everything and beg his forgiveness. When she catches up to him, she discovers that she had indeed seen another woman with her man. How does she respond?
"For years the city talked about the sweetness with which Aunt Mariana had endured the romance between her husband and Amelia Berumen. What no one could ever understand was how not even during those months of grief did she interrupt her absurd habit of going all the way to Chipilo to buy the weekly cheeses."
The problem with the collection, however, is that not enough of these tales are long enough for the aunts to become more than a blur. Certainly there are plenty of folks in this world who seem to subsist quite nicely on a little chicken soup, but my sense is that Mastretta is capable of offering her readers a considerably more substantial -- and satisfying -- literary meal.
Reviewed by Chris Bohjalian
Copyright 2004, The Washington Post Co. All Rights Reserved.
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Book Description Riverhead Hardcover, New York, 2003. Hardcover. Condition: New. Dust Jacket Condition: New. First American Edition. Mylar protected dust jacket. "Thirty-nine indomitable aunts are captured in a series of lyrical snapshots in this autobiographically inspired collection, a bestseller in the award-winning author's native Mexico. Mastretta (Lovesick) originally conceived these brief stories as a way of telling her daughter about her long line of powerful female ancestors; the resulting fictional series of portraits delivers charming lessons in life and love. Among the most memorable of Mastretta's big-eyed women are dutiful Aunt Leonor, her only clandestine desire a craving for medlars, a bittersweet fruit; Aunt Paulina, who meets a Jewish musician and learns that neither love affairs nor works of art are ever quite complete; Aunt Natalia, who dreams of becoming a mermaid; Aunt Fatima, who is courted by the same man for 10 years and discovers that "love, like eternity, is a yearning"; Aunt Daniela, who "fell in love the way intelligent women always fall in love; like an idiot"; and Aunt Ofelia, who never shares her troubles with anyone, determined to "wrinkle up" with smile lines rather than "wrinkle down." Homing in on the essence of each aunt, Mastretta also captures the flavor of her native Puebla: ".the volcanoes, the sky, the mole, the chalupas, the national anthem, the highway to Mexico City. the bittersweet chocolates, the music, the smell of tortillas." This edition includes the full Spanish text and showcases Mastretta's engaging ability to capture the pivotal moments of a woman's life, when everything changes or begins to make sense for the first time. Though the translation can sometimes be rocky, this celebration of womanhood will captivate readers.". Seller Inventory # 008041
Book Description Riverhead Hardcover, 2003. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M1573223468
Book Description Riverhead Hardcover, 2003. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # MB010EW7DOO
Book Description Riverhead Hardcover, 2003. Hardcover. Condition: New. Never used!. Seller Inventory # P111573223468
Book Description 1-57322 Riverhead Books New Yorks. Encuadernación de tapa dura. Condition: Nuevo. 09/08/06. Seller Inventory # 417793
Book Description Riverhead Hardcover. Hardcover. Condition: New. 1573223468 New Condition. Seller Inventory # NEW7.1614740