A cellist attending the funeral of her renowned ex-husband is beset by conflicting emotions, in this impressionistic fiction by award-winning Mexican author Glantz (Family Tree, 1991, etc.).
Nora Garcia has not visited the dusty village where she lived with Juan, a world-class pianist, since their divorce many years before, but news of his heart attack and death has brought her there one last time. Estranged from old friends attending the wake, unknown to the others, Nora wanders between the garden and the living room where Juan’s corpse lies, overhearing mourners wonder aloud whom “they should offer their heartfelt condolences to.” Thus isolated, she remembers the past she shared with Juan, the music they loved and the pontifications he often delivered late at night on subjects such as the careers of Giovanni Pergolesi and Glenn Gould. Very little happens here beyond the wake, the funeral procession (complete with mariachis and a beggar with a bandaged foot) up a rocky path to a small church, and the burial. Otherwise, the exposition is confined to Nora’s circular meditations on, among many other things, the physiology of myocardial infarction and its metaphorical extension, a broken heart. Sometimes this theme-and-variation technique succeeds, and the story evokes an eloquent mood of loss as it considers the power of memory as filtered through grief. More often, however, Nora’s mental meanderings, especially when unnecessarily protracted (subjects include John Singer Sergeant’s portrait of Isabella Stewart Gardner and Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot), seem to reflect the author’s interests rather than the development of her character’s epiphany. Furthermore, the indulgent misuse of colons and parentheses, scattered annoyingly throughout the text like inscrutable emotions, undermines the narrative authority necessary when asking a reader to navigate a work cast entirely in stream-of-consciousness.
Decidedly one-note, however richly sung.