THE SMELL OF OLD LADY PERFUME by Claudia Guadalupe Martinez


Age Range: 9 - 12
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An autobiographical examination of sixth grade, death and life on the border. The year starts with great promise, and Chela confides her dream to her beloved Apá: winning the All-School Girl Trophy. But Apá has a stroke on the first day of school, and when he recovers, Chela finds that during her absence popular Camila has stolen her best friend. Episodic chapters relate moments of the year, each paced like a short story but dependent upon a linear reading, slowly moving the novel to the unsurprising end. The first-person past-tense narrative creates a sense of distance that flattens characters and renders Apá’s struggles with his health objectively poignant rather than emotionally resonant. The balance of life on the border of Mexico and Texas is lightly sketched but sure-handed; occasional Spanish phrases and the sense of family and community come through. Readers too young for Viola Canales’s Tequila Worm (2005), which also explores life between cultures, and happy to take it slow may find this ideal. But sadly, like Apá’s post-stroke diet, the novel lacks spice. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: July 1st, 2008
ISBN: 978-1-933693-18-7
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Cinco Puntos
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 2008