FAMILY ALBUM by Claribel Alegría


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 Three novellas from El Salvador's leading writer Alegr°a, who, like every writer south of the Rio Grande, feels obliged since Garcia M†rquez to bring in the now-obligatory bits of magic realism, with varying results. In ``The Talisman,'' Karen, a disturbed teenager at school in a Los Angeles convent, talks to a range of characters she once knew in Guatemala and Key West--characters who materialize in her room and in her dreams. She's also haunted by her mother's lover Mark, an abusive and cruel man who may have killed her beloved dog, then attempted to seduce her. A psychopathic nun, who mortifies her flesh with sharp instruments, becomes her spiritual adviser, and Karen deliberately shocks the increasingly prurient nun with details of her childhood. When the nun gives her a gift--a talisman she has made--Karen realizes that finally she has power over someone: ``Sister Mary Ann's heart here in my hand...I can destroy it if I wish.'' The title novella seems a straightforward account of a Nicaraguan woman in Paris, recalling her family and increasingly drawn to help the Sandinistas, until the pictures in a family album are cut out and then miraculously made whole again. The last, and least successful, piece--``Village of God and the Devil''--describes a Majorcan village, home to, among others, the late poet Robert Graves, where magical things happen until a black hole is discovered and the village changes: ``...the magic was leaving God's village...the prophets stopped arriving, and the witches left.'' Some vivid scenes and evocative characters, though the magic realism seems intrusive rather than part of a seamless whole. Still, an interesting new voice from an underrepresented region.*justify no*

Pub Date: Sept. 15th, 1991
ISBN: 0-915306-72-7
Page count: 216pp
Publisher: Curbstone Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1991


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