Thursday, May 22, 2014

Review: "Quesadillas" by Juan Pablo Villalobos

Despite it’s name, Juan Pablo Villalobos’ Quesadillas is not a delicious snack but a bitter indictment of a culture that seems hell-bent on destroying lower class people and harvesting them for rich people. But this slim novel does so with a great sense of humor and passionate heart, and it is just bizarre enough that it fits perfectly for the FSG Originals imprint that has brought us authors as distinct as the rural violence of Frank Bill and the odd realities of Amelia Grey. And like most FSG Originals, with the exception of Frank Bill, this book is hit or miss, but thankfully mostly hit. It gets weird sometimes, a bit too weird for its own good and for the reader’s sensibilities, but at 158 pages, it never over stays its welcome as long as the reader is along for the ride. Orestes, a middle child in an abnormally large and very poor family, narrates the story. The story is not the most important aspect here, even though it involves twins disappearing and the possibility of an alien abduction. The real treat here is how Villalobos can take such a grim subject matter, take away all the sadness and anger and replace it with biting humor. When the two youngest children go missing at a grocery store, the focus isn’t on the grief, but the possibility that there will be more quesadillas to go round. And that silly motif is played up throughout the whole novel, a fun metaphor for desperation and escape that would become unbearable if the novel were longer than it is. But a lot of the enjoyment of this novel comes from reader’s ability to go with the story’s flow. If you are patient throughout this slim novel, I can guarantee that you will be rewarded.

Rating: 4/5

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