This installment: Caribbean culture, teen book set in Spain, and quirky, magical short stories
A Cupboard Full of Coats by Yvvete Edwards
Caribbean culture transplanted to London, with miserable Jinx haunted by her mother's murder 14 years ago and her estrangement from her 6 year old son who lives with his dad. Lemon, a family "friend" (though it's more complicated than that) shows up and Jinx relives her intense feelings of guilt and resentment in his presence. Steamy, sad, and full of local color--food, language, references. The coats, by the way, are the presents Berris, her mother's lover (and killer), gave her after every beating.
Small Damages by Beth Kephart
A teen book that juxtaposes a familiar theme, pregnancy, with "exile" in Spain for Kenzie until the baby is born and adopted. Then she'll come home, go to Yale as planned, and no one will be the wiser. Though contemporary, the setting in Seville feels ageless on this specialized ranch which raises bulls bred for the ring. Kenzie's furious and resistant, of course, but she encounters some rigorous, seasoned teachers-by-example there, including fierce, taciturn Estela, the cook, and a band of flamenco-playing gypsies. (I sensed the shade of Hemingway throughout, in the guise of a female young-adult author.) More a fable than a realistic tale, I thought, but full of rich cultural material and I was relieved that Kenzie finally got to know herself and to follow her instincts and her heart accordingly.
Enchantment: New and Selected Stories by Thaisa Frank
Very quirky, magical, and often very short. A circus, clothing with a charge (one coat makes the wearer invisible, for instance), old maps, transformations--the stuff of dreams, but told almost matter-of-factly which makes them even more fascinating. Some stories are linked and circle around the same territory. I love material like this and was surprised I'd never heard of Frank before.
Back next Monday.