An inventive and poetic novel about a young woman’s search for self-expression in a world without sound. Clara is born without the capacity to hear in the exotic Azores, where her people are haunted by the legends, literature, and mystery of these Portuguese islands.In her youth she moves to northern California, where her heritage continues to color her newfound landscape. Drawing upon her own spiritual resources, she creates her own languages in unusual, universal forms.
Praise for Saudade:
“Magic abounds in the lives and minds of the characters of Vaz’s haunting, lyrical debut set in the Portuguese Azores and the U.S. from the 1950s to 1998. When Clara Cruz is born deaf, her parents use the vibrations of seashells to “show” her sounds. Neighbor Maria Josefa teaches the girl a bizarre form of speech and shows her how to create iridescent art from fish scales. After her parents’ death, greedy Father Teo Eiras takes Clara to California, where her mother had inherited some property, but he cheats her of profits from the land. In revenge, Clara seduces the priest and bears their son, who is born with a dreadful wound, ‘a split down the middle of him from chest to stomach, so that he could show her his heart,’ Clara thinks. Solitary Helio Soares, who has an eye disease which makes objects seem speckled, cures Clara of an illness, and they become lovers. By the novel’s end, Clara has learned a great deal about their love and about herself. Language and the power of narrative are at the heart of this enchanting story.Suspending disbelief, one willingly enters Vaz’s unique mystical world, in which colors sing and sugar can be used as a mode of speech, in which ghosts appear regularly and lovemaking is wonderfully strange and original. The audience that appreciated Like Water for Chocolate should find this novel equally appealing.”—Publisher’s Weekly (starred review)
“This wonderfully inventive novel, which contains elements of magic realism, is infused with a sense of saudade—a Portuguese word that, according to the author, can be understood as an extremely intense longing for a time, place, or people. The major characters come from the Portuguese Azores, whose folktales, beliefs, and practices form a leitmotif throughout the novel.Young Clara, mute since birth, loses her parents. . . . The love of a widower helps Clara move beyond grief to discover a world of color and growth. First novelist Vaz has written a challenging and rewarding work of fiction.”
—Robert Andrews, Library Journal
“The characters in Saudade, Katherine Vaz’s first novel—characters who love, lose and then eternally long for their beloveds—are trapped between heaven and hell . . . Saudade is laden with fanciful devices as well as an abundance of supernatural occurrences . . . Vaz is an extremely talented writer, and there’s much to love in her book, especially for devotees of magical realism and anyone interested in the rich culture of the Portuguese.”
—San Francisco Chronicle
“Yearning and loss, absence felt so deeply that it becomes a kind of overriding presence, drive the plot of this remarkable first novel written by a remarkable talent . . . No doubt in her travels she absorbed some of the myths and legends of the Azores—that culture informs the book, but the sensuous language, the flights into fantasy and magic, the use of metaphor and imagery to defy conventions of thought and behavior—all these should be credited to the free-ranging stretches of the author’s imagination. She can be quite dazzling.”
—Los Angeles Daily News
“Will probably come to be considered the first great ‘ethnic’ Portuguese-American novel . . . entirely in the line called New World Fiction produced by authors belonging to minority groups in the great Western societies: Toni Morrison, Amy Tan, Bharati Mukherjee, Julia Alvarez, and Sandra Cisernos in the U.S. and also Laura Esquivel in Mexico, to whom Vaz has been insistently compared, particularly in reference to Like Water for Chocolate.”
—Vamberto Freitas, Diario de Noticias, July 4, 1996.
“In Saudade’s beautifully textured narration, you encounter a previously un-encountered, gorgeously enriched America, and characters with real blood in their veins. Saudade will engage the attention of hordes of readers.”
—Thomas Keneally, author of Schindler’s List.
“I love Saudade because it pulls you toward it with its sensual images and holds you with its unexpected plot.”
—Whitney Otto, author of How To Make an American Quilt, Now You See Her, A Passion Dreambook.