Little Star of Bella Lua
When I heard that she was born in Recife, Brazil, but now lives in Madison, Wisconsin, my curiousity was piqued in Luana Monteiro. So I ordered her recent short story collection Little Star of Bela Lua: Stories from Brazil. It is bizarre, but not disappointing.
These seven distinct stories, with a couple characters that briefly reappear in each other’s narratives, are exotic; sometimes harsh, sometimes lovely. A miracle-working fish appears in a desert latrine. A young woman outsings the best repistas (troubadors) in her state and thus never marries. A priest goes on an ill-fated mission in the dark heart of the jungle. An ancient man hires an alcoholic alchemist to help him break a curse and die. A swift-talking mayoral candidate avoids election, to the pride of his respected liquor-brewing mother. A doctor learns life lessons from a scared turkey and a 2-liter snake. A young woman turns to Jesus to control the sexually-active demon with which she has been possessed since childhood.
Not your run-of-the-mill storylines.
Some phrases that captured my notice:
“…let’s wait and see, Abigalia, God writes straight through crooked lines…”
“My mother, from her purgatorial place at the stove…”
“…that’s how he was, full of energy, always speaking in that agitated voice of his, waving his arms about and staring at the world with green, limpid eyes that looked as if they’d just opened from a decade of dreaming.”
All the stories are fresh and unusual, rich in the sensory details of Brazilian culture. Most intriguing to me–though I can’t say why–were “The Ecstasy of São Mercúrio” (about the priest) and “Antonia de Juvita” (about the politican). Monteiro’s strong voice and open-ended storytelling would leave me feeling disjointed, I think, if this were my everyday fare; but then, for a Midwesterner, there is nothing everyday about these stories.
I’m curious to read the collection Ms. Monteiro publishes after she’s spent 30 years in Wisconsin!