THE DEAD LEAVES by Bárbara Jacobs


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 A poignantly affectionate tribute to an emotionally absent father that won Mexico's 1987 Villaurrutia Prize for Jacobs (born to an American father and Mexican mother). In a childishly chatty voice--speaking as ``we'' on behalf of her siblings--one of the grown daughters of a kind, idealistic but disillusioned man recalls growing up in Mexico and making family visits to Lebanese-American relatives in the US. She pieces together their father's youthful experiences in Greenwich Village and the Soviet Union, his membership in the Communist Party, and his wartime service with the anti-Fascist Abraham Lincoln Brigade during the Spanish Civil War--a background that led to his leaving the US and being labeled a subversive. Though Pap† hardly speaks to his children, they accept his withdrawal into books with good humor; they prefer him to any other father they know. When conflict emerges between their parents, they momentarily feel that their ``souls had started dividing into two not so equal halves...and there was no possible bridge capable of ever joining them...[but] this wasn't what happened; these were just fears that we ourselves had dreamed up....'' The children long to serenade their father with a song--``Pap† we need you, Pap† we love you''--but he isn't interested in music, and so they never do. Jacobs is quite un-American in her approach to the subject: no blame, no whining, no self-pity. With charm and humor, her narrator vividly evokes the world of her family, expressing yearning love in the medium that can best reach her isolated father--a book.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1993
ISBN: 1-880684-08-X
Page count: 128pp
Publisher: Curbstone Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1993