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Between the Covers Podcast

Veronica Gonzalez Peña : The Sad Passions

Told by six women in one family, Veronica Gonzalez Peña’s The Sad Passions captures the alertness, beauty, and terror of childhood lived in proximity to madness. Set against the backdrop of a colonial past, spanning three generations, and shuttling from Mexico City to Oaxaca to the North Fork of Long Island to Veracruz, The Sad Passions is the lyrical story of a middle-class Mexican family torn apart by the undiagnosed mental illness of Claudia, a lost child of the 1960s and the mother of four little girls.

The Sad Passions explodes the tired assumption that women’s interiority is intrinsically domestic, fanning out women’s inner lives like the vibrant sections of a peacock’s tail. It upends our expectations of a novel about women’s family life. The cumulative effect of Gonzalez Peña’s novel is that of a hall of mirrors: an intimate, personal hall of mirrors, a psychic hall of mirrors. This, she tells us, is where women live, how women live, in the company of past selves, future selves, in the anguished haunting of possible selves. This is where women’s lives happen, in the space in between memory and present, in the split-second recognition of one’s reflection, before turning from the glass and going out into the world.”—Los Angeles Review of Books