This is the story of Euridice Gusmao, the woman who could have been.
When Euridice’s sister Guida elopes, shocking her family, becoming disowned she is left to be the good daughter. Euridice marries Antenor, who never quite lets her forget that ‘there was no blood on the sheets’ on their wedding night. Why they married, no one knows? So much in her life has become unexceptional, why even her wedding was simple, was it love? Or did Antenor just need a woman to cook him the foods he liked, give him children, and be content and settled with just being his wife? Babies come, along with weight, the only way to assure Antenor keeps his distance from her! Her life is routine, her sister’s absence is accepted but one day she decides to write a cookbook! Her husband, of course, finds this ridiculous, laughing it off and forbids all her other ‘schemes’ (ideas). This is Rio De Jeniro in the 1940’s, women do not work- what would they say about her husband? That he isn’t MAN enough to take care of his wife and children? Staring at the bookshelf, cooking for her family, invisible Euridice wants something of her own and dreams up many ideas. He hasn’t any interest in her mad concoctions, prefers that she sticks to the simple solid meals he prefers. Her gift is wasted on her family.
Where Euridice was the scholarly daughter with plans for her future, the beautiful Guida excelled in flirtation- the sister that knew and taught everything about being a woman to her sister. When Marcos enters her life, she begins to feel superior to her own humble family. Marcos is a good catch, too good (in his parent’s estimation) for Guida- but they will have each other. After the elopement, Guida’s life with Marcos takes turns she couldn’t have foreseen, lovesick or more love-blind, reality comes as a crushing shock! It may well be the very thing that draws her strength out of her. With a son to care for, there isn’t anything she won’t do to survive, gossips be damned, shame is the price any woman will pay to give her child everything they need.
Years pass, but one day she arrives on Euridice’s doorstep with her beloved son, and the trajectory of the sister’s lives change, despite obstacles both build the lives they need. There are so many characters in this story to keep the reader humored and horrified, such a macho world! Sour faced gossips whose childlike sweetness and curiosity was spoiled for lack of beauty, soiled women who are lifelines for single mothers, reputation is everything and it could be a woman’s ruination! This novel manages to be dark, and humorous both! Never has anyone wanted someone to choke to death, but not… of course not. I actually enjoyed Guida’s story the most, her hardships are louder than Euridice’s but both seem to have fate’s boot on their neck, pinning them to misery. Will that change? Will Antenor ever stop bringing up the lack of blood on their sheets? Lord have mercy! I wish more books were translated to English, there is such wonderful talent the whole world over we may never read. This is a little gem, it’s clever, strange, dark, humorous.
Publication Date: October 10, 2017