Review: Like Son by Felicia Luna LemasFelicia Luna Lemas
Published by Akashic Books
Reviewed by Kay Sexton
This second novel from Felicia Luna Lemas, takes an oblique, mysterious trajectory through the effects of obsessive love on three generations of one family. Frank’s father fell in love with a woman who wasn’t his wife, and Frank, born Francisca, is the war zone over which they fight for many years. Francisca is kept by her mother, a woman of pathological behaviour and quite vile habits. When Frank escapes, by becoming a boy, his almost blind father doesn’t realise his daughter has become a son and on his deathbed reveals that his own mother, Frank’s grandmother, was the lover of Nahui Olin, the artist-poet, liberated woman (or nymphomaniac, according to one writer) and contemporary of Frida Kahlo.
Dad’s last gift to Frank is a picture of Nahui, and when he flees to New York and meets Nathalie, it is her resemblance to Nahui that first attracts him. But Nathalie is unstable in the extreme, and leaves Frank again and again, forcing him to experience the love, the loss and the anger of his forbears.
The beauties of this novel tend to be self-contained ones, apart from the account of Frank and Nathalie building a Day of the Dead altar after 9/11, which is a prose poem, dense with meaning and references that spread through the longer narrative. Most of the other really superlative sections of the book are locked into themselves: Frank taking his father’s clothes, his finding a shop and buying the kitsch that fills it, his experience with a weather radio, all fail to weave fully into the larger story and nothing, at the end of the book, is resolved. But the language (apart from a tendency to use dangling modifiers which gets old very fast) is beautiful and redeems the more ragged aspects of the tale.
As well as writing for the UK's premier sustainability journal, Green Futures, Pushcart-nominated Kay Sexton has recently completed ‘Green Thought in an Urban Shade’, a words and pictures exhibition with painter Fion Gunn that was shown in London, Dublin and Beijing. She has had more than ninety short stories published. Kay blogs about writing fiction at http://writingneuroses.blogspot.com/ and has a regular column at http://www.moondance.org/