In the tradition of such beloved contemporary classics as How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents and Dreaming in Cuban, Carmen Boullosa's Leaving Tabasco is a lovely coming-of-age novel full of humor and touched by magic.
Raised by her mother and grandmother, in an all female home with not enough affection but more than enough stories to go around, Delmira Ulloa comes into adulthood with a wicked sense of humor and a delightful imagination. Agustini is not an ordinary village-Delmira grows up in a world where she sees her grandmother floating above the bed where she sleeps; where her grandmother remembers a time when stones turned into water; where during the dry season one can purchase torrential rains at a traveling fair; where her family's elderly serving woman develops stigmata, then disappears completely. As Delmira becomes a woman she will search for the missing stranger who fathered her, and in choosing her own allegiances make a choice that will force her to leave home forever.
Brimming with the spirit of its irrepressible heroine and the magic of her grandmother's nightlybedtime stories, Leaving Tabasco is a story of great charm and depth that will remain in its readers' hearts for a long time.
Editions and translations:
Treinta años, Editorial Alfaguara, Mexico, 1999.
Leaving Tabasco, trans. Geoff Hargreaves, Grove Press, New York, 2002.
Treinta años, Punto de lectura, Mexico, 2002.
Excerpts from reviews:
This is an edgy, funny and sometimes frightening book about an exhilarating and awful Mexican childhood. It is also an ode to the now-vanished secret heart of southern Mexico: its vast mahogany jungles and the constricted, tradition-bound, violent and yet enchanting small-town life that until recently thrived along the jungle's edges. Carmen Boullosa writes with a heart-stopping command of language. Her recollection of a child's emotions is implacable and unerring, her sense of history precise. A beautiful work.
Carmen Boullosa . . . immerses us once again in her wickedly funny and imaginative world.
Delmira Ulloa watches all these proceedings with a placid disposition and a wry sense of humor. . . . Putting into question the very dependability of our realities, this playful novel aims to muddle in order to help us better see.
San Francisco Chronicle Book Review
Erica Da Costa:
A lovely, aromatic mix of small-town portraiture and coming-of-age story, heavily seasoned with magical realism . . . So rich that we happily share with her the myriad components of her life, including the infinitely charming town she inhabits; her grandmother's fantastic imagination; and the mysteriously absent father 'who had been eliminated by the women in [her] home.'
Washington Post Book World
Raucously imagined . . . a meditation on family, community and storytelling. . . . In her hard-won wisdom and courage, Delmira is . . . fascinating.
Time Out New York
Sandra Tsing Loh:
To flee Agustini is to leave not just a town but the visceraly primal dreamscape it represents . . . to leave behind its villagers' peculiar brand of storytelling and mass hallucination and fabulist thinking . . . And finally, and here comes the twist, to leave fabulist thinking . . . is to embrace (in a suddent torrent of violence in the last third of the book) the light of Communism. . . . Lush . . . the exotic glossolalia of Mexico is a sheer sensual pleasure.
The New York Times Book Review
Monica L. Williams:
A vibrant coming-of-age tale that proves that magical realism has not lost its powers. . . . Boullosa [is] a master of the genre. . . . Each chapter is an adventure.
A luminous writer . . . a delightful coming-of-age tale filled with the kind of exulting magical realism that seemed to have run its course in Latin American literature. . . . Boullosa is a masterful spinner of the fantastic . . . and this story of a girl growing up in a rural Mexican town is anything but ordinary in her hands. . . . As she weaves her tall tales, Boullosa unearths, layer by layer, the wonderfully crafted character of Delmira.
The Herald (Miami)
Treinta años pertenece a esa línea de obras narrativas que no llevan a remolque una carga de realidad para que funcionen como texto. En este libro están los elementos para lograr que lo verosímil no tenga que ver con lo creíble. …este libro es la mejor prueba de que la lengua de Carmen Boullosa no se trabará. Y lo creo porque a pesar de la insistencia del narrador por establecer una serie de registros literarios, alcances, enigmas al lector; de ser un claro reto a las voces que quién sabe de dónde nos soplan cosas al oído mientras escribimos, el relato se sitúa en un más allá abstracto que no creo que ninguno de nosotros esté en capacidad de analizar sino tan sólo de someternos al disfrute estético que nos ofrecen estos mundos representados.
La jornada semanal
Carmen Boullosa's novel approaches its ultimate subject via a surprising plot device late in the book that changes the way the reader interprets everything that came before… Leaving Tabasco is actually a multi-layered narrative, challenging the reader to navigate a series of fantastic stories --- the day no bird could fly, the day the coffee beans and cocoa pods fell off the plants, the day a woman bearing the stigmata of Christ dissolved in her own urine --- and seek the truth, not just of the stories themselves (which may or may not be the workings of an overactive and fever-inspired imagination) but of the themes of the stories. Most of Delmira's tales take place on 10 successive Sundays, lending them a religious tone, which adds to their mystery. The book is also punctuated by the stories of Delmira's grandmother, a stern, unyielding woman, who recounts much of the history of Agustini as nightly bedtime stories. … shocking the reader into recognizing that real threats to society are far more horrifying than the most shocking imaginings of a young girl.
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