Veronica Gonzalez Peña


The Sad Passions

Semiotext(e) / Native Agents, 2013

Semiotext(e) - Amazon - Powell's Books

Told by six women in one family, Veronica Gonzalez Peña’s The Sad Passions captures the alertness, beauty, and terror of childhood lived in proximity to madness. Set against the backdrop of a colonial past, spanning three generations, and shuttling from Mexico City to Oaxaca to the North Fork of Long Island to Veracruz, The Sad Passions is the lyrical story of a middle-class Mexican family torn apart by the undiagnosed mental illness of Claudia, a lost child of the 1960s and the mother of four little girls.

It is 1960, and the wild and impulsive sixteen-year-old Claudia elopes from her comfortable family home in Mexico City with Miguel, a seductive drifter who will remain her wandering husband for the next twenty years. Hitchhiking across the United States with Miguel, sometimes spending the night in jails, Claudia stops sleeping and begins seeing visions. Abandoned at a small clinic in Texas, she receives electroshock treatment while seven months pregnant with her first daughter. Afterward, Miguel leaves her, dumb and drooling, at her mother’s doorstep.

"Painful and raw, The Sad Passions is a novel that explores the darkest complexities of family histories and our hopeless desire to make sense of insanity . . . because, of course, here are plenty of other things to hold onto, including forgiveness, whose elusive mysteries are worth not only the pursuit of a novel but also a life."
- Leigh Newman, O Magazine

"In Veronica Gonzalez Peña's The Sad Passions, four sisters, daughters of a mad mother, devoted to her and afraid of her, tell their versions of a tortured family romance. The sisters' and mother's raw, impassioned voices are intricately interwoven, and, Rashomon-like, the novel speaks of familial love's strange demands, harsh effects, and lasting ties. Veronica Gonzalez Peña's The Sad Passions is honest and riveting."
- Lynne Tillman, author of Haunted Houses

"The Sad Passions, Veronica Gonzalez Peña's extraordinary novel of desire, loss, and matrilineal history, explodes the teenage pregnancy script through its unflinching plumbing of the bond between mother and daughter. The Sad Passions begins with a story we think we know, and then shows us how little any of us understand: about our ancestors, our parents, ourselves."
- Lisa Locascio, The Los Angeles Review of Books

"Five women, including a mother and her now grown daughter, Julia, who was discarded when she was young, narrate this novel of fractured family, selves, and hearts, which gently mesmerizes with its rhythmic prose, and the emotionally rich and complex strategies each woman employs in telling her story. A beautiful and moving choral tale of isolation, love, damage, and intimate struggles. Its many landscapes, especially Mexico City, sing too."
- Francisco Goldman, author of Say Her Name: A Novel


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