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The Faraway World: Stories

Tekijä: Patricia Engel

JäseniäKirja-arvostelujaSuosituimmuussijaKeskimääräinen arvioMaininnat
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A collection of ten haunting short stories linked by themes of migration, sacrifice, and moral compromise bring to life the liminality of regret, the vibrancy of community, and the epic deeds and quiet moments of love.
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näyttää 4/4
( Avg. Rating: 4.25; Audio Narration: 4.5)

“Survival requires different things of different people.”
The Faraway World: Stories by Patricia Engel is a compilation of ten previously published short stories that are set across Cuba, Colombia, and the United States. The stories touch upon themes of love, friendship, family, loss, regret, and class distinction among others. A running theme in these stories is the emotional connection or lack thereof to one’s homeland and/or one’s adopted country focusing on scenarios on both sides of the immigrant experience - those who stay and those who leave – motivated by fear, hopes, dreams, ambition, love, and/or security. We meet characters who remain tied to their roots for the sake of family, sentimental reasons or a dearth of opportunity. We also meet characters who are motivated to emigrate in search of a more rewarding life, in search of wealth, love and/or security.

What are the emotional /psychological costs of choosing to stay or to leave? Are all such dreams realized? Is it even possible to distance oneself from one’s roots? Whether seeking to preserve one’s connection to the world one leaves behind or trying to find a sense of belongingness in a new world, the characters in these stories grapple with love, loss, loneliness, isolation, and regret as they navigate their way through family, friendship, and life in general.

In “Aida” (5/5), the teenage daughter of an immigrant family settled in the United States struggles in the aftermath of the disappearance of her twin sister – a tragedy that tears her family apart. “Fausto” (3.5/5) revolves around a young girl who has to choose between staying with her father and moving to Columbia with the young man she is romantically involved with when he has to flee The United States to avoid being arrested for illegal activities. In “The Book of Saints” (5/5) explores an arranged marriage between a Columbian woman who misses her home and a controlling and oppressive American man. In “Campoamor,”(3/5) an aspiring writer in Columbia spends most of his time juggling two girlfriends while contemplating a move to the United States with one of them, aware that his lies and deception would eventually be exposed. In “Guapa” (4/5) a tragic accident shatters the hopes and dreams of a young woman, who had been living life on her own terms. “La Ruta” (5/5) revolves around the tender friendship between a taxi driver and a young woman who visits a Church every day to pray for an opportunity to emigrate to the United States. “Ramiro” (3/5), revolves around Chana and Ramiro, both of whom are in the employ of the Church in an attempt to reform them – Ramiro from being arrested for his gang affiliation and Chana for her delinquent behavior, skipping school and her promiscuity. “The Bones of Cristóbal Colón” (4/5), revolves around a sister searching for a safe place to bury the remains of her deceased brother, a priest whose grave was desecrated and some of his remains stolen. She also reconnects with her former lover, who has since emigrated but is currently visiting Cuba. The dynamics between a Columbian woman employed as domestic help in the home of another Columbian woman form the basis for “Libélula” (5/5). In “Aguacero” (5/5) a chance meeting between two fellow Columbians (one a young woman who is an immigrant based in New Jersey and the other a middle-aged man from Madrid) in New York leads to a brief but impactful friendship.

Having previously read and enjoyed Patricia Engel's Infinite Country, I was eager to read more of her work and this collection of short stories does not disappoint. The author writes beautifully. Engel excels in her sensitive portrayal of human relationships. Her characters are real in that they are flawed. Despite the common themes explored throughout the book, each of these ten stories stands as unique. As in most collections, I enjoyed some stories more than the others but overall this is an impressive compilation of stories each of which is well-written and emotionally impactful. I look forward to reading more from this talented author.

I paired my reading with the exceptional full-cast narration featuring Patricia Engel, Gisela Chipé, Frankie Corzo, Inés del Castillo, Cynthia Farrell, Dominique Franceschi, George Newbern, Anthony Rey Perez, Aida Reluzco, Alejandra Reynoso and Gary Tiedemann. ( )
  srms.reads | Sep 4, 2023 |
I'll open with an honest disclosure—I almost never enjoy short story collections the way I enjoy novels. The limited (simply in terms of page length) relationship between characters and reader leaves me feeling that I'm experiencing something at a distance. Given the content of the stories in The Faraway World, that distance isn't as big a problem as it might be, though it's still a problem.

The characters in The Faraway World are all liminal. Patricia Engel sets her stories in Colombia, Cuba, and the U.S., and in every instance the characters hover between locations in one way or another. Sometimes this is a result of immigration, sometimes a result of deportation, sometimes a result of the changes in a nation losing population to emigration. When characters relocate, their world becomes unfamiliar. When characters don't relocate, their world nonetheless becomes unfamiliar.

Engel does have a gift for making settings concrete—even with limited information, the reader can imagine where the events of these stories are taking place. This is a particularly noteworthy ability given the broad range of settings among the stories in The Faraway World.

If you enjoy contemporary short stories with a global sensibility, I can assure you that you'll find The Faraway World satisfying reading. If, like me, you prefer novel-length fiction you may feel a bit disengaged while reading these stories, but certainly won't view that reading time as time wasted.

I received a free electronic review copy of this title from the publisher via Edelweiss+; the opinions are my own. ( )
  Sarah-Hope | Feb 14, 2023 |
Patricia Engel’s short story collection The Faraway World contains stories that take place throughout Latin America communities and follow common themes of family, poverty, love, and the struggle to break out of societal boundaries. This is a good collection of stories but nothing really stands out among them as great. ( )
  Hccpsk | Feb 5, 2023 |
The first years in New York he thought, just like we all do when we arrive, that he would eventually go back once he had something saved, but now he’s been here long enough to know there is no returning–when you cross over that ocean and those borders, they cross over you.
from The Faraway World by Patricia Engel

I was blown away by Infinite Country by Patricia Engels and eager to read her again. The stories in The Faraway World offer insight into the lives of those who have left their home country and their families, believing in the myth of a better life elsewhere.

These characters exemplify that one’s losses are not always offset by the gains, that coming to America doesn’t guarantee safety. Even the woman whose husband gives her a life of luxury in America is more unhappy than the maid she hires for physical and psychological comfort.

In the opening story, a twin girl disappears and the American police comments, “This isn’t some third world country…The likelihood that your daughter was kidnapped is extremely remote,” but the reassurance proves to be false. In another story, a Miami teenager in love is unwittingly drawn into drug running.

A once chubby woman with a factory job in America undergoes a series of operations in her homeland to perfect her beauty. She is in love with a younger man; aa horrific accident, in an ironic twist, may send her back to Columbia to live with her mother.

There are also stories are set in Columbia, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic.

A Havana taxi driver’s passenger is on a pilgrimage to visit hundreds of churches, praying that an aunt in America will bring her over. She tells him, ‘I don’t want to love anything on this island. It will make it harder to leave.”

A hardened street kid’s life is changed when required to work at a church with a merciful priest whose impact changes his life and inspires a troubled girl who doesn’t understand why her mother in America hasn’t sent for her.

“No one is safe from this world’s horrors,” a Cuban woman is told. Her priest brother’s bones have been stolen from the cemetery. Like the bones of Cristobal Colon, whose bones were without a country, the dead have no home. The man she loved and who loved her chose to go with another woman to America.

Several stories probe relationships and marriage. An agency arranges a marriage between a Colombian woman and an American man; it isn’t a love match, not a perfect marriage. The wife is still an outsider, each is filled with doubts. And yet, in the end, they stay a family and the man realizes he is happy. A wannabe writer is in a relationship with two woman. When the unmarried woman has an opportunity to go to America, and take him with her, he has to chose. “You can live on your invisible words here…Not over there,” the married girlfriend warns him. A Colombian woman in America meets a troubled man with PTSD after being kidnapped back home. She takes him in and cares for him, uncertain about believing his story of being from a prominent family. Years later, she learns the truth.

These haunting stories reveal truths about what people give up for the hope of a better life and the too often disturbing reality of the cost of staying or leaving.

I received a free egalley from the publisher through NetGalley. My review is fair and unbiased. ( )
  nancyadair | Jan 7, 2023 |
näyttää 4/4
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A collection of ten haunting short stories linked by themes of migration, sacrifice, and moral compromise bring to life the liminality of regret, the vibrancy of community, and the epic deeds and quiet moments of love.

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