Kastin (The Undiscovered Island, 2009) uses the landscape and culture of the Azores, his maternal homeland, to marvelous effect in this spellbinding collection of short stories that tend toward folklore and magical realism.
Nine islands off the coast of Portugal are the setting for this debut collection of 18 stories that reach for universality in both meaning and appeal. Each tale chronicles the curious fate of an islander beset by forces of nature, the supernatural, and often family and neighbors. A woman can steal others’ pain; another, after hearing angelic voices in the waves, is swept out to sea only to return alive, though she now grows seasick on solid ground. A dress can win a man’s love. Witch conjurings can carry a fisherman’s boat from its dock to a distant beach, landing him at the feet of his future wife. Even death might not detach men and women from the patterns of life: A skeleton craves and tastes wine, and relationships flourish among the dead. Kastin’s captivating stories are beautifully crafted, transporting readers on these strange journeys. The conflicts and travails have a timeless air; only a few are unambiguously set in modern times, and most could take place at any point in the last few centuries. Each story stands and succeeds alone, yet as a whole, the collection offers a convincing view of life as a fierce adventure, often uncontrollable and always awe-inspiring. In this stellar show of magical realism, the supernatural is accepted as fact by characters who observe or encounter it. For better or worse, it informs and transforms their lives. Readers, too, will be enchanted by its power.
An extremely impressive blend of escapism and portraiture of the human condition, following in the footsteps of Jorge Luis Borges and Gabriel García Márquez.