The Threads of the Heart

Carole Martinez, trans. from the French by Howard Curtis. Europa, $17 (416p) ISBN 978-1-60945-087-8
Spanning southern Spain to Algeria, this mythic family tale follows a roving band of women through the amazing story of magical seamstress Frasquita Carasco, who, among other miracles, uses her otherworldly powers to raise the dead. Thanks to a box containing arcane secrets passed down by her mother, Frasquita is capable of cryptic incantations that unleash primeval forces. Her daily life, however, is one of poverty and hardship. The family gambled away to a wealthy landowner by a reckless husband with a passion for cock fighting, Frasquita and her children eventually flee their miserable existence in a remote Spanish desert town, embarking on an odyssey across the mountains, where they take up with a band of revolutionaries. The multifaceted panoply of terrifying or inspiring characters who inhabit this harsh, mystical universe—from a crafty, pontificating pedophile who is also a skilled physician to a Catalan anarchist leader whose ravaged face Frasquita must reconstruct—are worthy of the very best of Márquez or even the darkest García Lorca. The author’s prose is perfectly calibrated, riffing seamlessly between the enchanting lyricism of Frasquita’s matrilineal clan and far more somber realities. Frasquita’s daughter, Angela, was born with chicken feathers and a voice that can stir clergymen into lustful passions or raise the downtrodden masses. Like the desert that occupies so much of Martinez’s mesmerizing narrative, the author’s prose is uncompromising, stark, and often brutal: “The people were roaring beneath the child’s voice, and the captain was asking his questions, and the guard was cutting Salvador’s face, gashing the cheeks, digging into the lines, attacking the muscle, widening the mouth, carving the features.” Recurring themes, like ostracism and social injustice—in short the intolerable atrocities perpetuated by human beings on their own kind—are deftly and fluently addressed throughout this sad and magnificent debut. Martinez has crafted a singular and engrossing masterpiece of magical realism that stretches even the virtually limitless boundaries of the genre. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 11/26/2012
Release date: 12/31/2012
Genre: Fiction
Open Ebook - 224 pages - 978-1-60945-106-6
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