“She had a restless back and a porcelain nape. She had chestnut-colored subversive hair and a merciless, happy tongue with which she went through life and every last detail of the lives of whoever offered her theirs. People liked to speak with her because her voice was like fire and her eyes converted to precise words the most insignificant gestures and the least obvious stories.”
Women with Big Eyes
By Angeles Mastretta
In this collection of short stories women of all ages share a story from a pivotal moment in their lives. The 39 aunts, for whom each of the chapters are named, tell stories of love, regret, and of relationships. Most of the stories are brief, sometimes only a page or two, but still manage to stand out thanks to the strong emotions the women impart in the telling.
There is Tia Cristina who leaves the reader wondering about her love affair. She was interesting woman but men didn’t want interesting and at twenty-one she still hadn’t had a courtship and was quickly falling into the category of old maid. But one afternoon her fate changes when she receives a letter and a ring from a mysterious Señor Arqueros. There is a whirlwind romance, a trip abroad and then the return of Tia Cristina. Many wonder about the relationship and how true it was but one thing is for sure, Tia Cristina no longer had the pain of being an old maid.
One of the other stories which I found so touching was of Tia Isabel who loses all faith in God and religion when her father dies despite her asking several saints to intercede on his behalf. What surprises her most is that the earth keeps moving despite thinking that this horrible event would kill her.
There is humor, sensual imagery and most of all a collection of voices all vying for your attention. I saw this collection of stories as an extended family reunion. Everyone sharing anecdotes about who did this or that, what happened to so and so and stories of long ago. Some tales may be more embellished than others but the point is in sharing and passing on family histories.
While I wouldn’t call this book magical realism there is an element of just trusting the narrators and going along with the story no matter how farfetched it may seem. What I liked the most about the book was that while the women may have lived during difficult times or had to abide by societal norms, these women aren’t doormats. They see just what is going on around them.
I read this book for the Mexico 2010 Challenge and I’d love to read another book by this author although I’m hoping the next one will be a novel.
Source: Personal copy