cover image Happy Families

Happy Families

Carlos Fuentes, , trans. from the Spanish by Edith Grossman. . Random, $27 (331pp) ISBN 978-1-4000-6688-9

This collection by celebrated Mexican author Fuentes (The Eagle’s Throne ) treks a wide swath of Mexican history, encompassing revolutions won and brutally suppressed, evolving sexual mores and economic upheaval. While all kinds of relationships are explored—lovers and friends, mothers and daughters, sisters and brothers—the most revealing of Fuentes’s work are father-son stories. In “The Disobedient Son,” a father demands that his sons become priests to honor their dead mother; “The Official Family” posits a fictional president of Mexico who controls fiercely his own passions by imposing limits on his wayward boy; and in “The Star’s Son,” a fading movie star takes belated responsibility for a son with a crippling disability. Interspersed with short chapters of free-form poetry that turn an unflinching eye on homelessness, sexual abuse, gangs and drugs, Fuentes’s urgent stories make clear that Mexico is too full of life and tragedy to be controlled or constrained. Desperately holding the turbulence still for a moment, Fuentes examines closely hard lives in an unforgiving place. (Oct.)