In Talking to the Dead, Sylvia Watanabe works her own brand of magic realism deftly, evocatively, and effectively. The author is an impressionist of light and color, with a fine-tuned ability to reveal the emotional nuances between characters, and a quiet sense of wonder.
Set in Hawaii, the interrelated stories are humorous, poignant, and mysterious, frequently delineating the wrenching pulls and stresses of family ties; idle infidelities, hurtful memories, unspoken resentments; the ache of irrevocable loss, and the necessity to honor the past. They often turn on the conflict between hard-headed realists and beautiful dreamers, between those who leave behind Hawaii and the old ways, and those who remain and carry them on.
Watanabe's Hawaii is populated with delightful eccentrics like the Laundry Burglar, Minerva, the "Orient's Fred Astaire," Aunty Talking to the Dead, who "understood the wholeness of things," and by ancestral spirits. Talking to the Dead is a work of magic, of subtle, profound feeling, and of loving fidelity to a besieged way of life.
Publishers Weekly, 1993-07-12 Although some of these 10 interrelated stories told by residents of a Hawaiian community linger in the memory, others soon evaporate. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Publishers Weekly, 1992-07-06 Although some of these 10 interrelated stories told by residents of a Hawaiian community linger in the memory, others soon evaporate. Watanabe's spare prose focuses on extended families and on events suffused with spirituality. Noteworthy stories include ``Anchorage,'' in which a young woman hesitates to leave her father, a former artist afficted with Alzheimer's disease, for school in Alaska; and the O. Henry Award-winning title story, about an elderly mystic who conducts funeral rites and her squeamish but dedicated young apprentice. Occasional references to the sea, lava and the La Hula Rhumba Bar and Grill remind us that the action occurs in exotic Hawaiian settings. Primarily, however, Watanabe directs her attention to conflicts between characters--domineering parents, rebellious kids, local eccentrics--who could be at home in any small town. Her debut collection offers tales that are alternately engaging and listless. (Aug.)
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