Mrs. Vargas and the Dead Naturalist

Kathleen Alcala, Author, Kathleen Alcalc!, Author, Kathleen Alcal, Author Calyx Books $9.95 (192p) ISBN 978-0-934971-25-6
This brief collection of short stories set in Mexico and Southern California exudes a seemingly effortless charm, piquing the palate with a modicum of Latin-style spice. Alcala understands the necessary understatement of magical realism. In one tale, a mild archbishop leaps off a balcony on impulse and soars above the village, waving to those below. He is particularly pleased that no one can smell his foul body odor from the distance. Many of the stories are mysteries of sorts, pivoting on unexpected, ironic turns of events yet moving methodically toward resolution. A fortune teller reveals the immediate future to a wild young man. ``You are going very fast . . . with a powerful man, a dangerous man . . . holding you against your will.'' When the youth angrily demands his money back, the police are called, drugs are discovered and the prophecy comes true. Other stories describe family traumas: a wife mistakes her husband's lust for gold for an affair with another woman; one of two elderly sisters visits with the dead and spends leisurely hours in purgatory. This is Alcala's first book, by turns touching, entertaining and surprising, and uniquely her own. (July)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1992
Release date: 01/01/1992
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