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Our Lady of the Artichokes and Other…
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Our Lady of the Artichokes and Other Portuguese-American Stories (Prairie…

by Katherine Vaz

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When I first saw the title, I laughed out loud and ordered it. I think I expected something on the line of 'Dave Barry poking fun at the Japanese' humor. HOWEVER....this is a serious, well-written, at times very deep, collection of stories that could only have been written by a Luso(Portuguese) American. I'm married to one. We have many relatives in California's central valley where several of the stories are set. This morning as we ate breakfast, my husband related his memories of the Holy Ghost Festivals (today being Pentecost) and we discussed the story "The Man who was made of Netting ". Manny wanted his daughter to be the star of the festival and so found some creative financing to get her a gem studded cape (at a mere $10K!) to wear. The results of this desire/decision are in that category of 'would be comical if it weren't so sad.'

The story of the young portuguese girl writing to Sr. Lucia (the last survivor of the Fatima miracle and the keeper of the 'last secret') is one every woman who ever had a dream can relate to. The title story, "Our Lady of the Artichokes" --so California in addition to being so Portuguese--I won't do spoilers, is again funny and sad...

All the stories have a desolate beauty, a longing for a better life while being resigned to what is here and now. A Portuguese "saudade" if you will. The prose is so sharp it can cut. I didn't like the first story "Taking a Stitch in a Dead Man's Arm" and put the book down over a month ago, but came back to it and found on a re-read that while I may not like it, I can feel it, and appreciate the prose.

The final story "The Lisbon Story" -- about two dying men--one young, one old-- who are brought together by a house in Lisbon is a stunner, and will cause me to come back periodically to pick up this book and read a story here and there again and again.

This is definitely a sleeper. If you live in California, or have any Portuguese relatives or friends, you'll really enjo ( )
  tututhefirst | May 31, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0803217900, Paperback)

The stories in this prize-winning collection evoke a complete world, one so richly imagined and finely realized that the stories themselves are not so much read as experienced. The world of these stories is Portuguese-American, redolent of incense and spices, resonant with ritual and prayer, immersed in the California culture of freeway and commerce. Packed with lyrical prose and vivid detail, acclaimed writer Katherine Vaz conjures a captivating blend of Old World heritage and New World culture to explore the links between families, friends, strangers, and their world.
 
From the threat of a serial killer as the background for a young girl’s first brush with death to the fallout of a modern-day visitation from the Virgin Mary; from an AIDS-stricken squatter refusing to vacate an empty Lisbon home to a mother’s yearlong struggle with the death of her synesthetic daughter, these deft stories make their world ours.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:56 -0400)

The stories in this prize-winning collection evoke a complete world, one so richly imagined and finely realized that the stories themselves are not so much read as experienced. The world of these stories is Portuguese-American, redolent of incense and spices, resonant with ritual and prayer, immersed in the California culture of freeway and commerce. Lacked with lyrical prose and vivid detail, acclaimed writer Katherine Vaz conjures a captivating blend of Old World heritage and New World culture to explore the links between families, friends, strangers, and their world.… (more)

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