Liliana V. Blum – Pandora

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I’ve come to expect surprises from author Liliana V. Blum. I’ve been impressed by her ability to concisely draw interesting and consistent characters with whom I can easily identify, but just when I think I know where she’s headed, she’s always a step ahead of me. I was certain this time that the surprise was that Pandora was a love story… Well, maybe it is, but if so, it’s certainly the most horrific love story I’ve ever read.

The story revolves around the competition for the affections of Gerardo, a handsome, successful doctor in a hospital in an unnamed city in Mexico. The female staff members view him as the perfect man, and many pursue him, despite his apparently perfect marriage to Abril, and their perfect twins. Meanwhile, Gerardo, a gynecologist, has become so desensitized and withdrawn that on an outing to a strip club, he wants to write a prescription for one of the dancers.

The 2 women in Gerardo’s life are Abril and Pandora. Abril spends her scarce free time exercising and dieting, because she constantly feels she doesn’t deserve her exalted role as wife and mother of the children of such a handsome, successful man. Gerardo actually finds Abril physically repugnant, but his communication skills are such a disaster that he has allowed a terrible but correctible tension to build between them for many years.

Pandora has experienced a lifetime of obesity. She has accepted this as her lot in life, but the author explores in considerable depth the emotional toll of a lifetime of pain, humiliation and anonymity that go hand in hand with being morbidly obese. When Pandora inadvertently triggers an obsession in Gerardo, she is extraordinarily vulnerable, and emotionally unprepared for the course of events he initiates. The Pandora metaphor is highly appropriate. When she opens the box, all manner of human evils emerge, building to a memorable climax.

As a man, I would have liked to understand Gerardo better, but the book isn’t really about him. It’s about the women. It’s about the lines they draw between love and obsession, between sacrifice and abuse. It’s about pain and yearning, about communication and the all but unbelievable things we are prepared to do for love.

This is a powerful book, and one that will stay with me for a long time. Liliana Blum just keeps growing stronger as a writer.

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Desde Amazon:

Gerardo es un hombre que parece tener todo en la vida: es un respetado ginecólogo que ha logrado ascender económica y socialmente gracias a su profesión; tiene una bella esposa capaz de hacer lo necesario para que él no la abandone; es padre de un par de gemelos a los que adora. Sin embargo, siente que su vida es árida y aburrida; le falta el placer que se despliega en fantasías, hasta que se topa con Pandora, quien no tiene nada que perder ante el rechazo social y familiar que sufre por su inmensa gordura e inseguridad. Sumergido en el gozo de su parafilia, Gerardo no sabe de límites e incluso el riesgo parece un elemento excitante en su nueva vida, y al acariciar y perderse en ese voluptuoso y voluminoso cuerpo que con tanto esmero cultiva, comienza a sentir que ahí está todo lo que él necesita. Mientras, Pandora va cayendo en un abismo en el que parece no hay posibilidad de retornar, víctima de sus propios vacíos.

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Vida Digital – Fabrizio Mejía Madrid

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My rating: 4 stars

During a long night of insomnia, we join a forty-something man in what may be his mid-life crisis, or may just be an effort to come to grips with the realities of his life. Poking around on Facebook, he drifts off into a fantasy about a beautiful woman who won’t accept his friendship request. When he is unable to even bring his fantasy to a successful conclusion, we realize we’re in for some serious soul-searching. The question “what is love?” leads to an in-depth review of the thoughts of philosophers on the subject throughout history. Similarly, as the main character’s thoughts move gradually away from fantasy toward reality, he investigates such other deep questions as “what is human nature?” and “what is life?” By the end of the night, he has returned fully to reality, quite possibly in a better position to make some of the important life decisions that await him. An interesting, highly introspective literary novel, dealing bravely and imaginatively with a widely misunderstood issue.

Un hombre en sus cuarentas, ligeramente calvo, algo pasado de peso, tiene la impresión de que ha visto pasar la vida demasiado rápido y todavía no sabe qué fue lo que vio. Lo que no se le convirtió en un trauma, se le convirtió en un vicio. Ahora es un lío de heridas, miedos, inconexiones y pequeños excesos. Y ahora, en medio de tanta confusión, una joven mujer lo inquieta más de lo que está dispuesto a admitir. En una larga noche de navegación por internet, pensamientos perdidos, divagaciones y recuento existencial, trata de saber qué hacer con su vida. Quizá lo consiga, aunque el lector se ve tentado a apostar que no.

Ojos de Lagarto – Bernardo Fernández BEF

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My rating: 4 stars

Layer upon layer of imagination went into constructing this delightful story. The time frame covers a huge swath between the wild west and some time before WWII. The geography ranges from the African Congo to Shanghai, and from Northern California to Mexicali. We follow the strange history of an ancient, mysterious Chinese man who journeys widely, eventually becoming the criminal leader of a labrynthine city of tunnels under the unlikely border city of Mexicali. Throughout his travels, he has carried with him the only heirlooms of his now defunct wealthy family, and now is the critical climax of his years of care and attention. We meet a wide range of characters, including P.T. Barnum, Mexican president Abelardo Rodríguez, a German spy, a hunter of exotic animals, and a veterinarian and his son, living by their wits as they escape the Mexican revolution. A fun, historic monster story that even solves the mystery of Lake Champlain. Definite recommendation.

Bajo el laberinto subterráneo de La Chinesca en Mexicali se guarda un secreto extraordinario. 1923. Una ciudad serpentea bajo el suelo de Mexicali. En ella, Pi Ying, un anciano chino traficante de opio y alcohol, ha protegido durante años un misterio que lo acompaña desde su huida de Shang Hai, cuando era apenas un niño. El secreto que se resguarda en la población fronteriza convoca a una serie de personajes peculiares: un ambicioso cazador de animales exóticos obsesionado con el rastro de una bestia portentosa, un veterinario viudo y su hijo que van por los caminos vendiendo tónicos milagrosos mientras huyen de la Revolución y sus recuerdos, y un espía del káiser Guillermo II que fracasa en su intento por contactar a Pancho Villa para proponerle una alianza militar con Alemania. Cazadores de elefantes sudaneses y de fauna insólita, recolectores de fósiles en el viejo oeste y personajes como el empresario circense P.T. Barnum, el traficante de especies salvajes Carl Hagenbeck y el presidente Abelardo L. Rodríguez desfilan por las páginas de esta historia que comienza a las orillas del lago Bangweulu, en el Congo, y concluye catastróficamente al norte de México.