A Woman Without Reason
About the book:
In this novel by acclaimed author María Matroccia, ten-year-old Isabel paints a powerful picture of her singular relationship with her mother, a woman with an undiagnosed chronic mental illness and a creative disposition that is constantly at odds within a traditional middle-class family. While a universe full of conflicts, mysteries, hypocrisies and Austen-like double standards unfolds before us, we will plunge into the sea of political, economic, domestic and emotional tensions present in an Argentine family from the 1960s. But through all of this disruption and instability, Isabel’s imagination will be fueled, and she will be able to turn bits and pieces of her confusing reality into fiction.
“Miss Ana,” said mom as she pulled the new dress over my head, “wants you to be like the others: Mercedes, Loli—did they cry?”
“No,” I said, standing in front of her. The new dress was white and had ruffles down the back, as if it were growing wings.
“Wow!” Julita said, “It looks so lovely on you! It’s so cute. It’s the fabric, Isabel. Parisian fabrics are gorgeous.” She bent over to remove a few loose threads from the hem and said: “You’re going to make something out of your tears. You’ll see.”
“Just something. I don’t know yet. Come here. It’s too long, isn’t it?”
I looked down at the dress.
“It’s fine. I like it. Can I wear it tomorrow, mom?”
“Tomorrow? I haven’t finished the neckline. A ribbon’s missing here, see, it’s not ready. If I stay at it a couple more hours … ” She paused, then lowered her voice: “Isabel, could you be a good girl and check if someone took the twins? They had swimming lessons today, or—what was it?”
“You’re making grandma mad,” I answered. “She says you never take them anywhere.”
Mom took a step back, grimacing. Her face turned all ugly. She said:
“Granny Catalina is always complaining. Don’t listen to her. She can take the twins or … ” She raised her eyebrows and added with a cheeky smile: “They can go by themselves, right?”
I closed my eyes. My siblings couldn’t go outside on their own. They were only four!
Julita lowered her head. She pleaded:
“Come on, Isabel, please help me. If I finish the dress and grandma takes care of the twins, we can read another story.”
I hesitated; I didn’t know what to do. Mom insisted:
“We can read another story from that book you like so much, the one with the tale about the dwarf who falls in love with the infanta.”
“Mom, what did ‘infanta’ mean?”
“The infantas are the King’s daughters.” Mom straightened her skirt. “Those who are born after the Prince or Princess. You would be the Princess and, if the twins were girls, they’d be the infantas.”
“But they’re boys, mom.”
We fell silent. Mom rearranged something in the sewing box and, as she shook a piece of fabric, a loose cotton thread flew down to the tip of her shoe, like a leaf falling from a tree.
I walked to the door, not sure what to do. Before going out of the room, I turned back and asked:
“Mom, that book’s author—did he cry a lot?”
“Tons.” Mom removed the loose cotton thread from the tip of her shoe. “All his life. But his tears became stories. And that’s what matters.”
“What about the stories in the reader?” I asked.
“Hmph! Those aren’t stories, Isabel. We talked about school already, all you have to do is show up.” She waved her hand and said:
“Go on now. Tell grandma to take the twins. I’ll stay and work on the dress.”
Translated by Rocío Molina Biasone - Edited by Paula Galindez