Saudade

Katherine Vaz, Author
Katherine Vaz, Author St. Martin's Press $20.95 (297p) ISBN 978-0-312-11055-0
Reviewed on: 05/30/1994
Release date: 06/01/1994
Paperback - 296 pages - 978-0-312-14408-1
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Magic abounds in the lives and minds of the characters of Vaz's haunting, lyrical debut set in the Portuguese Azores and the U.S. from the 1950s to 1998. When Clara Cruz is born deaf, her parents use the vibrations of seashells to ``show'' her sounds. Neighbor Maria Josefa teaches the girl a bizarre form of speech and shows her how to create iridescent art from fish scales. After her parents' death, greedy Father Teo Eiras takes Clara to California, where her mother had inherited some property, but he cheats her of profits from the land. In revenge, Clara seduces the priest and bears their son, who is born with a dreadful wound, ``a split down the middle of him from chest to stomach, so that he could show her his heart,'' Clara thinks. Solitary Helio Soares, who has an eye disease which makes objects seem speckled, cures Clara of an illness, and they become lovers. By the novel's end Clara has learned a great deal about their love and about herself. Language and the power of narrative are at the heart of this enchanting story. Suspending disbelief, one willingly enters Vaz's unique mystical world, in which colors sing and sugar can be used as a mode of speech, in which ghosts appear regularly and lovemaking is wonderfully strange and original. The audience that appreciated Like Water for Chocolate should find this novel equally appealing. (June)
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