Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Fourteen Sisters of Emilio Montez O'Brien by Oscar Hijuelos

If books are like people, then my selection for today would be an exuberant, colorful, story-telling friend who does all the talking. And, man, this book does not shut up! The Fourteen Sisters of Emilio Montez O'Brien is my favorite of Oscar Hijuelos' novels, and it is chock full of wacky and randy details about the daughter-dominated O'Brien family of Pittsburgh, PA. The father is heartily Irish, and the mother is deeply Cuban, and therein lies a central conflict of the story. The youngest child, the only son named Emilio, finds himself being pulled between his parents' two cultures while he is nearly smothered by all the femininity in the household. Hijuelos is a terrific writer--his novel The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love won the Pulitzer prize for fiction--and in true Latin American style he shows the magical and mystical in the everyday world. Fourteen Sisters has its tragedies, but it lands firmly on the side of love and hope and passion. I loved reading this book--I wouldn't want to read this kind of fiction all the time, just like I wouldn't want to spend every day with a garrulous friend. But, once in a while, it's utterly delightful!

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