KIRKUS REVIEWS

kirkus_500x95This first book, a story collection showing immense mastery of character, dialect, and narrative, won the 1993 Elmer Holmes Bobst Award for Emerging Writers. Born in Fresno, California, Marsella lives in Paris and writes largely about people of the underclasses or Third World, men and women from places like Chile, Nigeria, Istanbul, Morocco, and Mexico, slipping like a cat into myriad psyches and argots. Though she writes usually in a voice mirroring that of her characters, she fears no oddity of language, coming up with nutty tidbits that drive you to the dictionary. (When did you last use nimiety, embrangle, emulous, or partible?) In “Miss Carmen,” a Chilean woman arrives “in the Valley of San Joaquin” in California, gets a job polishing silver for a rich woman, gets a crush on a Mexican foreman but loses him, perhaps through her own small-minded pride. In “The Roommates,” Mary, a big, lanky girl from Kenya, shares a room in Paris with Selma from Istanbul, then with Selma’s lover, a Greek sweatshop foreman who also happens to be their married boss, and finally, after two years, abandons the dominating Selma to go live with an albino English gentleman in London. In “Testimony,” a Hispanic priest falls obsessively in love with his seminary’s young atheist gardener and finds himself driven into invisibility, or so he thinks, as day by day his own body parts begin disappearing. In the comic title story, an unmarried Mexican woman living in Paris works for four years as a hired clapper for TV’s “Objets TrouvÇs” (or “The Lost and Found Show”), seeks her lost father through the personals, and, after she’s betrayed by St. Jude, patron saint of the hopeless, finds herself instead. Distinguished indeed. May Marsella take on the novel.

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