cover image Dressing the Saints

Dressing the Saints

Aracelis González Asendorf. Black Lawrence, $21.95 trade paper (150p) ISBN 978-1-62557-062-8

González Asendorf’s astute debut collection portrays Cuban immigrant characters faced with loss, declining health, and role reversals. In the pitch perfect “The Lost Ones,” middle-aged roofer Efraín has a serious fall on the job. While recovering, he anguishes over his wife, Emelina’s, brusque treatment of him, and remembers how he cared for her after her several miscarriages. When Efraín leaves for an errand, Emelina teasingly calls him a “lost one,” the term they used to describe the babies who died, because of his chronic tardiness. “Old Clothes” centers on Olivia Suárez, a new resident at a Florida retirement community, where she encounters Marjorie Patterson, the woman she’d worked for as a maid when she first arrived from Cuba. Olivia’s new friends want to know if Marjorie was “persnickety” as an employer (she was, but Olivia doesn’t let on). The characters gradually come into focus through their subtle actions and word play, which often comes out in a mix of English and Spanish; in “For if the Flies,” named after a literal translation of the Cuban idiom “por si las moscas,” which essentially means “just in case,” a young woman reflects on family responsibilities and aging during a fishing trip with her father and uncle. This succeeds on multiple levels. (Jan.)