(Reviewed by JD Jung)
“A shiver ran down Paulina Trasloheros’s back. This man was horrible, excessive, outrageous. To exorcise him, she would have to commit a string of sins for which she could never repent. Not even when he decided to return to New York, where they lay success, a success that could not diminish the fury that would be the life of a great musician clogged up in a parlor in Puebla because of something as ethereal as love.”
Aunt Paulina’s story is only one of the many personal and mesmerizing short stories of women from Puebla, Mexico in Women with Big Eyes.
Though these are fictional characters–and I won’t reveal the names, so as to not give anything away– women will be able to understand and often identify with many of these “aunts”, who are not related to the author but rather are adult women who have lived full lives. Many lived with regrets, questioning their feelings and lamenting over missed opportunities. Others became secure with their unpopular decisions and owned up to the consequences.
One aunt left her husband and was the subject of the town’s mean- spirited gossip. Then an event occurred that allowed people to discover her true character. One professional found love later in life, lost it and couldn’t get past the grief. That is, until a quirky woman introduced her to an even quirkier method of getting over her former lover.
One married aunt was tormented by a forbidden love. Another had to deal with a father who went crazy after the revolution. One had an extramarital affair and was relieved when she discovered that her husband was having one also. These are just a few examples of the over thirty stories.
A common thread is that most of these women were trying to reconcile their true self and desires with their religion and culture. . Many thought they were going crazy. Most of the men in these stories weren’t abusive; in fact they were quite loving. It’s just that the women grew restless.
Author Angeles Mastretta is able to illustrate the culture and feelings in such detail with just a few pages. Since these stories are short, you can put down Women with Big Eyes and pick it up whenever you like. The problem is that I found the stories so spellbinding, that I couldn’t put the book down. Perhaps that will be the case with other readers, also.