In 1950s Puerto Rico, a mix of Caribbean, Central American, Spanish and US influences come together to create an intergenerational family experience of magic, trauma, love and mirth. This memoir-based fiction integrates the economic, political, ethnic and social conditions of the times through character interactions, newspaper excerpts, spirits, and dreams. Based in Puerto Rico, the novel also explores the weightier topics of exile and migration through the spiritual beings that are always present and trapped between two worlds, but not necessarily omniscient.
Vázquez wastes no time with lofty or lengthy descriptions. Instead, we learn of desires, pains and joy through actions and spiritual interactions as both women and spirits, who are central to the novel, shift between shrew and model wife, between doting senior and bruja, or between ideal lover and bitter love. Not Myself Without You
is full of dichos
and ritual that are not anomalies, but naturally infused and as complex as the interactions of the multiple interwoven and inseparable ethnic groups in the Caribbean.
The author articulates the surreal and magical truths in a poetic narrative that captures the history, the supernatural and the cultural nuances of Puerto Rico. The unassuming eroticism and the direct access to character emotions are especially refreshing. Best of all, there is a wicked humor underlying this story that speaks to us personally and spiritually, a wicked humor that belies the universal human fallacies of ego and hubris. Originally written in Spanish, this English translation does an excellent job of capturing the narrative gradations of Vázquez’s writing.
Lourdes Vázquez is an author of fiction, poetry and essay. Her other works include Samandar: libro de viajes/Book of Travels
and a collection of poetry, Bestiary
Highly recommended for all types of libraries and bookstores