<em>A Distant Father</em> by Antonio Skarmeta. Publisher: The Other Press (September 16, 2014). Contemporary fiction. Hardcover. 112 pages.
“In the course of an hour, I notice that the little town I’m in moves about as slowly as a watch, and I try to think up some possible conversational gambits to use on the girls.”
Seek out this beautiful and witty novella about a schoolteacher named Jacques who lives in a small Chilean village and works as a French translator for the local paper. He learned to love and speak French from his Parisian father, Pierre, who abandoned Jacques and his mother without a clear explanation a year ago. Will he let his father’s disloyalty affect his life.
Isolation in a town where few place an interest on learning and thinking doesn’t help matters for the intellectual Jacques. He finds flirtation with a student’s older sister passes the time. Can he subsist with such simplicity and not knowing the truth. During a visit to a nearby town, Jacques runs into his father with a young child who looks strangely familiar. How important is the past to one’s present. How far will Jacques go to forgive his father.
Skarmeta writes lovely phrases such as: “She strokes her chin, and for an instant she looks like a ballerina. She’s a shallow, distracted woman whose beauty is marked by melancholy.”
In this brief but solid endeavor one gets a clear sense for how Jacques feels about his father’s abandonment and digression. How having a father who left his life makes him feel in his small village today. He’s a bit aimless, a bit searching and a bit incomplete. He seeks answers. It’s charming and direct. It succinctly provides a clear sense of Jacques and his difficulties with both himself and his father’s abandonment. Which must be difficult at an older age. He questions who he is now and where he’ll be later. Skarmeta’s previous works served as the basis for the films No! and the Academy-award winning Il Postino: The Postman.
–review by Amy Steele
FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from The Other Press.
purchase at Amazon: A Distant Father
A Distant Father, Antonio Skarmeta, Chile, The Other Press
Maya’s Notebook by Isabel Allende. Publisher: Harper (2013). Fiction. Hardcover. 400 pages. ISBN 9780062105622.
Isabel Allende novels engulf you with impressive stories rooted in Chilean customs. With its present day setting, her latest novel could be considered a departure. The novel commences with 19-year-old Maya sent into exile by her grandmother to Chiloe, an island off Chile’s southern coast . Her grandmother and step-grandfather raised her in the liberal enclave of Berkeley, California. Her Scandinavian mom took off early in her life and her Chilean father, a pilot, wasn’t around much. Maya falls into a terrible drug-fueled scene when her grandfather, an African-American astronomer, dies. Allende writes about drug use and abject despair as magnificently as she writes about Chilean landscapes.
“Exasperated, insane, I waited eternal seconds until the rocks burned to the color of wax, with the tube burning my fingers and my lips, and finally they broke and I deeply breathed in the redeeming cloud, the sweet fragrance of mentholated gasoline, and then the unease and premonitions disappeared and I rose to glory, light, graceful, a bird in the wind. For a brief time I felt euphoric, invincible, but soon I came down with a band in the semidarkness of that room.”
After escaping from the rehab facility, she finds herself deeply involved in a dangerous drug scene in Las Vegas. Once her grandmother rescues her and sends her away, Maya has ample time to discover her innermost strength while in the isolated community. Given a notebook by her grandmother on her departure, Maya contemplates the harrowing past few months and her journey to bring her shattered soul back together. Maya’s Notebook is yet another beguiling, contemplative novel from one of my favorite authors.
–review by Amy Steele
FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from Harper Collins.
Chile, Isabel Allende, Maya's Notebook
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