MEMORIAS DE UN CAMALEON

From the Arca de los Seres Imaginarios series , Vol. 5

A creative, evocative mix of stories.

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A debut collection of short fiction, mostly in Spanish, addressing aspects of the Mexican and Mexican-American experiences.

Author De La Cruz shares more than two dozen short, Spanish-language narratives, some just a paragraph long and others spanning several pages. The book opens with “Conitos de nieve,” a disturbing account of two hunting aficionados showing off their trophies. Explorations of the dark side of human behavior follow, including a vivid depiction of a disliked old woman. But the author’s outlook isn’t entirely bleak; there’s a touch of playfulness in “Guiño,” in which deities from around the world socialize together, and “El rosario” presents a thoughtful portrait of two policemen attending a funeral. The stories return to the theme of chameleons introduced in the title, using the animals as a metaphor for finding homes in different cultures and different places. The book’s shortest pieces evoke Eduardo Galeano’s microfiction, with the same attention to language and confidence in the reader’s ability to interpret metaphorical statements such as “Mi último sueño fue curioso: había hielo y un cameleón se volvió transparente queriéndose perder” (“My last dream was curious: there was ice and a chameleon turned itself transparent trying to blend in”). One item in the collection is presented in English: “Maricopa,” a prose poem that asks, “Why wasn’t he blessed with citizenship? / Why wasn’t he born up north? / Why not golden hair?” The characters in these stories are quiet, but each plays a role in conveying the book’s symbolism and its themes of alienation and adaptation. In these tales of false identities, transgressive behavior, determination, and moments of grace, De La Cruz has produced an incisive depiction of the transnational and transcultural experience of border life in engaging, highly readable language.

A creative, evocative mix of stories.

Pub Date: May 20, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-9890623-4-3

Page Count: 74

Publisher: Revista Arenas Blancas

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2017

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A LITTLE LIFE

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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MAGIC HOUR

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Sisters work together to solve a child-abandonment case.

Ellie and Julia Cates have never been close. Julia is shy and brainy; Ellie gets by on charm and looks. Their differences must be tossed aside when a traumatized young girl wanders in from the forest into their hometown in Washington. The sisters’ professional skills are put to the test. Julia is a world-renowned child psychologist who has lost her edge. She is reeling from a case that went publicly sour. Though she was cleared of all wrongdoing, Julia’s name was tarnished, forcing her to shutter her Beverly Hills practice. Ellie Barton is the local police chief in Rain Valley, who’s never faced a tougher case. This is her chance to prove she is more than just a fading homecoming queen, but a scarcity of clues and a reluctant victim make locating the girl’s parents nearly impossible. Ellie places an SOS call to her sister; she needs an expert to rehabilitate this wild-child who has been living outside of civilization for years. Confronted with her professional demons, Julia once again has the opportunity to display her talents and salvage her reputation. Hannah (The Things We Do for Love, 2004, etc.) is at her best when writing from the girl’s perspective. The feral wolf-child keeps the reader interested long after the other, transparent characters have grown tiresome. Hannah’s torturously over-written romance passages are stale, but there are surprises in store as the sisters set about unearthing Alice’s past and creating a home for her.

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Pub Date: March 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-345-46752-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2005

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