My autobiographical novels LONGING and DYING UNFINISHED began as attempts to understand people whom I both loved and hated as well as to understand who I had been in the past. Writing through the veil of fiction, allowed me to view the world through their eyes as fictitious characters and consequently enabled me to write with greater freedom. Both these novels deal with the reverberations of a mother’s intimacy with her daughter’s husband.
LONGING was written from multiple viewpoints, but mainly through those of Rosa, the daughter, and Antonio, her husband, a charismatic Chilean. Here I dealt harshly with the character of the mother, Eleanor, and over the years she cried out for me to tell her story. DYING UNFINISHED was an attempt to do so. It began purely as Eleanor’s voice. But Rosa’s voice kept intruding And so it became a kind of dialogue..
DYING UNFINISHED opens in the 1950’s with Eleanor riding home to her family on the Long Island Railroad after an illicit tryst in Manhattan. She scribbles bits of poetry in a small green notebook.
“Am I me? Are you really you? Do we only see shadows/ we mistake for the other?”
“She paused. This only a fragment. The root of what she wanted to say eluded her in the way that the sky is obscured by clouds…..What if she did follow her longings?....ah, shades of Madame Bovary….Let her thoughts stream out into the atmosphere, for to formulate them in words was dangerous. So let them dissolve into mist.”
Rosa speaks across time and space:
“When I was little, I used to sit on your lap and try to push your lips into a smile. You would gaze past me, apparently immersed in another world. …I felt your sadness was my fault…in an old photo, you are wearing a silk blouse and pearls…but there is a sad look about you. Something in the eyes. A cold forbearance. …I see you longing for something that isn’t there.”
DYING UNFINISHED was a way of paying homage to my mother, complex as she was, and an attempt to untangle the roots of our difficult, relationship. At times the actual physical process of writing led me into unknown territory. The writing, while difficult, led me into compassion and forgiveness.
Causes Maria Espinosa Supports
Amnesty International, KPFA, anything to ameliorate homelessness and to make shelters more livable