A voice from the grave.
Bereft, grieving for her dead Venezuelan grandmother, Pilar is somewhat comforted by an unexpected inheritance: the old lady’s diaries. As she slowly, respectfully turns the musty pages, she discovers a timeless repository of wisdom, handed down through the generations from mother to daughter, in the New World and the Old—as well as the family secret her grandmother would not reveal until after her death. Pilar says prayers for the dead with a gallery of black-clad female relatives, wondering whether she should go back to Chicago or please her straitlaced mother by remaining in Caracas. Cristina disapproves of the happy-go-lucky American charmer who hopes to marry Pilar: in her opinion, Patrick Russo, a photographer, is not good enough for her precious daughter. Perhaps Pilar would like to meet a nice Venezuelan man . . . . ? Pilar knows better than to argue but continues to read the diaries, absorbed in the unconventional course of her grandmother’s life—so like her own—and in snippets of advice on everything from how to keep a wayward husband to the correct use of collyrium eyedrops for a suitably moist gaze (and, of course, a reminder that a woman must be “a lady in the living room, a chef in the kitchen, and a courtesan in the bedroom”). A dramatic, decades-old story unfolds on the pages: overwhelmed by indescribable passion for her own unsuitable lover, her grandmother followed her heart and a love-child was born—then hidden in plain sight. Clearly, Cristina knew nothing of this, and Pilar is reluctant to enlighten her. She muses on the Old World manners and mores that her grandmother embodied . . . and ponders the choice awaiting her once she returns to the States. Ai, to be a woman is not easy.
Denver banker-turned-first-novelist Marisol overdoes the drippy-mango sexual symbolism, and the writing sometimes clunks, but The Lady . . . has some uncommonly lyrical moments.