A good-natured domestic comedy set amid the Puerto Rican community in the Bronx.
“Doña Amada could see more through her one eye than most people could see with two,” begins Gallardo’s trim debut. “She could see the past and she could see the future, but the present was left to the bright shiny marble that had replaced her eye, torn from its socket by her husband’s jealous mistress.” And so begins the story of Amada and her passively philandering husband, Alberto, always the Lothario of the neighborhood and the apple of his doting parents’ eyes. And the story of Alberto’s parents, Don Pepitón and Doña Antonia, who disapproved of their son's union from the start—in part Amada is a rival for Alberto's affections, and in part because everyone knows that Amada’s mother, Doña Esperanza, is a witch. As the interfamily saga continues, we get to know Pepitón’s brother Pedro, who runs a gas station, and his other brother, Che, and Alberto’s vengeful paramour, Sarah—the one who will, years later, be responsible for Amada's missing eye—and Sarah’s mother, Doña María, a Pentecostal gossip. Everyone knows everyone, and there is a story about everyone; every relationship has a history, and Gallardo playfully recounts them all. There is no shortage of action here—the novel is vibrating with birth and death and tragedy—and yet there is a certain shapelessness to the novel; instead of a story arc, Gallardo offers a story seismograph, a steady stream of momentous action without a central weight. This, of course, is exactly the tempo of familial lore, with its histories and diversions—every story needs a different story first, for context—but the downside here is that it prevents the novel from gaining much momentum.
Charming, if not especially deep.