cover image Lovesick


Angeles Mastretta. Riverhead Hardcover, $22 (292pp) ISBN 978-1-57322-062-0

Mastretta, an internationally popular Mexican author (Tear This Heart Out), makes her North American debut with a novel that mingles fantasy with history, caprice with meditation, in a captivating chronicle of a family grappling with the tumult of a new century. Emilia Sauri is the daughter of a Spanish mother and a Mayan herbalist father. In the midst of the hardships of the Mexican rebellions of the early 20th century, Emilia is torn between her love for two men: a childhood friend who runs off to fight in the strife, and a peace-loving doctor who reminds her of her own desire to practice medicine. An impassioned family at odds with the strict dictates of 19th-century Mexican decorum, the Sauris nurture a truly modern woman in Emilia, endowing her with enough gumption to become a physician, political rebel and the lover of two men. Ably translated by Peden (who has translated Laura Esquivel, Isabel Allende and others), the novel conveys the Mexican flair for folk narrative--setting a scene with one sweeping paragraph and focusing on exquisite details in the next. Mastretta enlarges her characters by granting them the traits of female and male archetypes--protective goddess, lover, woman warrior, patient father, prince charming. Although marred slightly by a tendency to glorify poverty from a privileged perspective, this is a story to swoon over. Author tour; foreign rights sold in seven countries. (Apr.) FYI: According to the publisher, Lovesick was a #1 bestseller throughout Latin America in 1996. Riverhead will publish a paperback edition of Tear This Heart Out in April.