Women with Big Eyes (English and Spanish Edition)

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9781594480409: Women with Big Eyes (English and Spanish Edition)
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The award winning author of Tear This Heart Out writes a compilation of deeply personal stories imbued with the human spirit, driven by different powerful women connected by desire.

Each story in this "remarkable collection" (Kirkus Reviews) reveals a different woman, yet all are linked by a single thread: the strength of desire. Vibrant, sly, wise, earthy, and full of life, these are stories that mesmerize.

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About the Author:

Ángeles Mastretta was born in Puebla, Mexico, in October 1949.  She began her writing career as a journalist for such publications as Siete, a magazine published by the Ministry of Public Education, and the afternoon paper Ovaciones.  In 1974 she was awarded a scholarship at the Mexican Writers’ Center, where she honed her skills among the writers Juan Rulfo, Salvador Elizondo, and Francisco Monterde.  In 1975, La pájara pinta (Colorful Bird), a collection of Mastretta’s poetry, was published. The success of Tear This Heart Out (Riverhead Books, 1997) gave Mastretta the freedom to focus full time on writing fiction, yet the inspiration for Women with Big Eyes is autobiographical, conceived when her infant daughter was gravely ill.  Hoping to convince the child that she was a necessary link in an unbroken chain of extraordinary women, Mastretta sat by her bedside telling stories, harvesting her family tree and her imagination to create a cast of magical, witty and colorful women, caught in pivotal moments of their life.  Realizing the power of these stories, she subsequently wrote them down so that they would not be lost, and Women with Big Eyes was born.

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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Other Popular Editions of the Same Title

9781573223461: Women with Big Eyes

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9781573222563: Women With Big Eyes

Riverh..., 2003
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