by Mayra Santos-Febres
translated from the Spanish by Lydia Platón and Nathan Budoff
*ISBN 1-57129-034-6 1997 paper $15.95
In this new collection of stories, Mayra Santos Febres draws us into a world pulsing with desires. She never allows us to feel we are outside these stories looking in; we are never granted the comfort of distant analysis. Rather, she forces us to become complicit in the lives of her characters and become one with the visceral intensity that drives them. We gaze longingly at Katy’s Beauty Parlor alongside the girl in “Broken Vein”–imagining it to be the crown of creation, the highest goal to which one could aspire–and breathe her daydreams of attending the Sky Academy of Looks and Beauty in Miami. We share the terrible impatience of the woman in “Abnel, Sweet Nightmare”, trying desperately to get home in time to watch her neighbor undress for his afternoon shower. Yet Santos Febres does not want us to feel too comfortable with these tales; she compels us to witness the glory and complexity of these passions, even the uncomfortable places where they sometimes lead. The narrative “Marina and Her Fragrance” is dominated by the passions of others besides Marina and the fear of those unleashed desires. Santos Febres presents us with a rich and vital world, a world which refuses to be limited to the realm of the socially acceptable. Her stories lead us into entanglements and passions we didn’t know we were open to. The world of these stories is our own world as we wish it was: simple, honest, passionate, fearless; where life constantly vibrates in accord with the deepest passions, however sophisticated or simple the characters.