In a captivating debut, Forbes presents the life of a temperamental Mexican-American beauty in a U.S. border town over a 65-year period.
Ayela Garzón drives the guys crazy. Not only is she beautiful and sexy, but she’s utterly indifferent to them, before and after the act. The 17-year-old lives with her dressmaker mother and her grandmother in the tiny town of Santa Rosalia, near the Rio Grande; the year is 1934. She is saved from her unnatural indifference two years later, when Frederick Linde passes through town. He’s a dashing 25-year-old Boston blueblood with a “law degree and an open heart,” on his way to do good, south of the border; but Ayela’s beauty stops him cold. They marry in secret before a public church wedding a year later, and will go on to have three children: Xavier, Freddie and Jesse. All this we learn piecemeal over the years from family, friends and neighbors. Forbes tells us just enough to whet our appetite for more. She also has novelist Anne Tyler’s uncanny eye for the convolutions of marriage and family. Here are husband and wife walking in the rain, their marriage hanging in the balance; they will make up once Ayela reveals her vulnerability. Here is the infinitely kind, energetic Frederick, in a middle-aged slump, tired of his bourgeois life; his shrewd mother-in-law sees his need for a time out, and he splits for a year, with Ayela’s blessing. Ayela herself is a woman of contradictions: imperious and humble, gentle and harsh. She will prove too much for her sons, who will flee to Boston. Years later, devastated by Frederick’s death, she will still have the love of her faithful Colombian maid, Concha. This new author depicts the tenuous comforts of old age as skillfully as the urgent desires of youth.
Forbes has the magic touch, and a glorious future.