FLORA'S SUITCASE by Dalia Rabinovich


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A first novel, by the winner of the HarperCollins— “Write the Bestseller,— contest tells of a Jewish-Russian-American family transplanted to the unlikely soil of Colombia. Rabinovich grew up in Colombia herself and, given the extensive set of acknowledgments (largely to family members) in the opening pages, the story may in fact be based on her own mother and father. Here, Flora and David Grossenberg are a peculiarly mismatched couple: he’s one of a large clan of Jewish ÇmigrÇs from Russia, she an assimilated Jew from Cincinnati. They meet in Paris, fall in love, and marry. In one of a series of decisions sprung on the unsuspecting Flora by her new husband, the couple and their first baby find themselves at the outset of the book heading into the Colombian interior to join David’s family, an incestuously close-knit group of brothers and sisters-in-law who are struggling to maintain an import business in Medell°n. Of course, Colombia is the home of Gabriel Garc°a M†rquez, and nothing but extraordinary things happen there (in fiction, anyway). Harold, for example, one of David’s brothers, grows so fond of his diet of fruit—mostly mangos—that he turns orange and sets up house in a mango tree. A waif-like urchin who joins Flora and David’s household blossoms (overnight, literally) into a lucious and tempting woman who may have been impregnated by a jasmine tree. An eerie centenarian takes over as presiding spirit of the house, until her bizarre and unnatural death. In short, Rabinovich’s debut is permeated by magical realism, recalling the quasi-feminist perspective of Laura Esquivel as much as the work of Garc°a M†rquez. Regrettably, though, innovation yields here to affectation in the mere accumulation of wonders piled high in a disconnected series of episodes. The author’s knack for description is a help, but characterization is in short supply and structure nonexistent. A disappointing if amiable debut.

Pub Date: Sept. 2nd, 1998
ISBN: 0-06-019137-6
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 1998