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Tales from the Town of Widows: And Chronicles from the Land of Menby James Canon
Synopses & Reviews
In the small Colombian mountain village of Mariquita, a band of guerrillas storms in to protest the country's ruling government. They arrive with propaganda and guns, and when they depart they have forcibly recruited all the town's men, leaving behind only a few — the priest and a young, fair-skinned boy disguised as a little girl.
In their wake, Mariquita becomes a sinking wasteland filled with women who quickly resign themselves to food shortages, littered streets, and mourning. Without men, life is hopeless, and getting along, nearly impossible. But, Rosalba viuda de Patiño, wife of the former police sergeant, sees a different fate for the town of widows. She declares herself magistrate and promises to instill law and order while restoring the failing economy and infrastructure. Reluctantly, the women agree to join forces. A utopia emerges, one that ironically resembles the ideal society the guerrilla group claims to promote.
Deft, rich, and darkly humorous, Tales from the Town of Widows is a captivating exploration of gender and sexuality that uses the ongoing conflict in Colombia as a backdrop. It presents a fascinating portrait of ill-fated wives and the war that helped them build a peaceful, equality-based society.
Exquisitely wrought, remarkably original, James Cañón's stunning debut marks the arrival of an unforgettable new literary talent.
"On November 15, 1992, the men of the tiny Colombian town of Mariquita are forced by guerillas to join or die on the spot, which some do. The town's women enter a particularly grievous widowhood. Chapters covering the years that follow chronicle the town's decay and introduce women struggling to survive without men and without meaningful government. Cleotilde Guarnizo, a traveler seeking respite, is hired to be the schoolteacher. Dona Emilia laments the loss of clients for her brothel. Magnolia Morales, meanwhile, forms a group devoted to reminiscing about the men, which becomes a 'magical whorehouse,' where lonely women seduce men from neighboring Honda before they reach Dona Emilia's. After a storm washes away the access road leading to the village, the citizens no longer have contact with the outside world, and their haphazard magistrate Rosalba introduces the 'Procreation Campaign,' where 29 women have sexual relations with the lascivious priest (who turns out to be sterile). Throughout the narrative are short, first-person testimonies from the men, detailing their exploits (which sadden some while making others rejoice). Although Canon, making his debut, crafts characters that shine, the book plods, only picking up speed when the women make a final attempt at uniting and reorganizing their community." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"The story of these women touches our deepest emotions and reveals fundamental needs and concerns....[It] confirms the idea that our world would be far better off in the caring hands of women." Library Journal
"Prime magic realism a la Marquez, Cortazar and Vargas Llosa, updated with a pop-culture twist." Kirkus Reviews
"A rollicking and often shocking tale that Canon tells with charm and bite." Washington Post
"From it's bravura opening, in which the men of a fictional Colombian mountain town have been marched off to fight in a decades-long guerilla war, leaving the womenfolk to form a new social order, James Canon's brilliant Tales From the Town of Widows has an imaginative reach that encompasses political, Philosophical, sexual, religious, and magical realms while it also explores the deeper conflicts between tradition and freedom that underlie this mesmerizing debut novel." Elle Magazine
"James Canon's first novel presents a lively mixture of magic realism and Amazonian feminist politics. But he never strays far from the historical violence that has riven his native Colombia since the 1960s." Financial Times (London)
"Canon, with his ability to encapsulate epic political history into poignant, poetic prose, promises to evolve into an enduring literary presence." Chronogram
"James Canon achieves an extraordinary combination of largeness and intimacy. Here is the sweep of history together with the feeling of home, both conveyed with high intelligence and real eloquence. Canon is a young American — in the broader, hemispheric sense of the word — to celebrate." Benjamin Kunkel, author of Indecision
"Like his villagers, Canon has built a new world on an old — a realigned literary landscape with new sex roles, new stubbornness, new glory, and new wreckage. A much-loved tradition of Colombian fiction has been gorgeously reimagined in a novel for a new era of readers." Joan Silber, author of Household Words
"James Canon has written a book of wonders with great political purpose....Canon is a gifted storyteller, as full of his radical purpose as Jonathan Swift, as enchanting as Gabriel Garcia-Marquez, as brainy as Pamuk, yet his anger and compassion, as well as his humor, is distinctly his own." Maureen Howard, author of The Silver Screen
About the Author
James Cañón was born and raised in Colombia. He moved to New York to study English and later earned his MFA in Creative Writing from Columbia University. Canon was awarded the 2001 Henfield Prize for Excellence in Fiction. He lives in New York.
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