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A Cuban-American family's secrets, fears, and fissures all come to light after the sudden death of an eldest son: a low-key novel of remembering and regretting by Cubanborn Surez (Welcome to the Oasis and Other Stories, 1991). When internationally renowned seed-geneticist Zacar¡as Torres dies of a heart attack while on assignment in Brazil, the Torres family, who've created an oasis of solidarity in exile in the US, suddenly confront long-ignored problems. The secrets and worries they admit to, in separately narrated chapters, are not the gothic horrors of tabloid headlines or pulp fiction but, rather, the plaints of ordinary families. The result is a quiet but cumulatively affecting story as characters immersed in their own lives learn of Zacar¡as's death, travel to Miami for the funeral, and, at the service and after, decide it's time to resolve their difficulties. Laura Torres, until she learned of her husband's death, felt that her daily ""routines had become ones of boredom,"" enlivened only by pretending ""she had her family back at the house, reunited for dinner""; Laura's sister, Maura, married to Zacar¡as's twin brother Norberto, drinks because it makes ""the bad thoughts go away"" and helps her forget a promising past ended by a tragic accident and exile; Maura's only daughter, free-spirited Celia, who lives with an artist, hates her teaching job and her mother's drinking; Eleanor, the family matriarch, no longer feels needed. And then there are Laura's four children: Sammy is unhappily married to neurotic Gisell; Sof¡a wants to divorce her rich Argentinean husband; Beatriz is not sure she's ready to marry eligible Lorenzo; and Christina wants to be a photo artist but is uncertain of her talent. But by the time the funeral is over, as Maura tells Celia, ""things are going to change now."" An insightful portrait of families, in the shadow of death and exile, behaving with commendable grace and compassion.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1995
Page count: 250pp
Publisher: Arte P£blico