THE COLORS OF MEMORY by Gabriela Tagliavini


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Argentinean-born, L.A.-resident screenwriter/director Tagliavini makes her fiction debut with this tale of an odd, disgruntled old woman and an abused ten-year-old boy fleeing their hospital beds in Mexico to search for lost loved ones north of the border.

Originally published in Argentina but "adapted for English-speaking audiences" by the author, the novel focuses on 69-year-old Carla Anone, who hates everything: "groups, societies fraternities, families, people who need others." She's also obsessed with color, as well as with the sailor she met when she was 19. Carla, who "only cared about writing," was looking for a man to be the subject of her screenplay. Enter Dmitri, who stole her heart—and her watch. "I knew right away that he was the character I wanted for my screenplay, a man who generated questions," explains Carla. She wrote down what she thought Dmitri was thinking; she interpreted situations the way she thought he was experiencing them. But when she discovered that he was illiterate, she felt betrayed and left him. Forty-nine years later, dying of leukemia, she is determined to track him down and kill him, while Juan, whose mother's violence landed him in the hospital, wants to find his father and celebrate Christmas. In chapters named for colors, the action alternates between the unlikely pair's road trip and Carla's past, which includes a father who worked for the FBI in the ’50s, flushing out communists in Hollywood when not beating Carla with wooden hangers and submerging her in tubs of water. She follows Dmitri's trail to East L.A., where she meets his wife and learns that his real name is Joe. The culmination of the journey leads both Carla and Juan to uncover the truth about what they really want and what they need—each other, of course.

Toying with concepts of time, art, and reality, Tagliavini's interesting experiment tries too hard to be symbolic and lovingly weird, though it's ultimately quite touching.

Pub Date: April 15th, 2001
ISBN: 1-928746-17-9
Page count: 218pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 2001