Happy Families by Carlos Fuentes

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The internationally acclaimed author Carlos Fuentes, winner of the Cervantes Prize and the Latin Civilization Award, delivers a stunning work of fiction about family and love across an expanse of Mexican life, reminding us why he has been called “a combination of Poe, Baudelaire, and Isak Dinesen” (Newsweek).

In these masterly vignettes, Fuentes explores Tolstoy’s classic observation that “happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” In “A Family Like Any Other,” each member of the Pagan family lives in isolation, despite sharing a tiny house. In “The Mariachi’s Mother,” the limitless devotion of a woman is revealed as she secretly tends to her estranged son’s wounds. “Sweethearts” reunites old lovers unexpectedly and opens up the possibilities for other lives and other loves. These are just a few of the remarkable stories in Happy Families, but they all inhabit Fuentes’s trademark Mexico, where modern obsessions bump up against those of the mythic past, and the result is a triumphant display of the many ways we reach out to one another and find salvation through irrepressible acts of love.

In this spectacular translation, the acclaimed Edith Grossman captures the full weight of Fuentes’s range. Whether writing in the language of the street or in straightforward, elegant prose, Fuentes gives us stories connected by love, including the failure of love–between spouses, lovers, parents and children, siblings. From the Mexican presidential palace to the novels of the poor and the vast expanse of humanity in between, Happy Families is a magnificent portrait of modern life in all its complicated beauty, as told by one of the world’s most celebrated writers.

Praise for Carlos Fuentes
Winner of the Cervantes Prize

The Old Gringo

“A dazzling novel that possesses the weight and resonance of myth [and] the fierce magic of a remembered dream.”
–The New York Times

The Death of Artemio Cruz

“Remarkable in the scope of the human drama it pictures, the corrosive satire and sharp dialogue.”
–The New York Times Book Review

The Years with Laura Díaz

“Reading this magnificent novel is like standing beneath the dome of the Sistine Chapel. . . . The breadth and enormity of this accomplishment is breathtaking.”
–The Denver Post

This I Believe

“Engaging, offering surprising conclusions, provocations or turns of phrase . . . Put down the page-turner and dare to drink these full-bodied, red, shining words.”
–Los Angeles Times Book Review

The Eagle’s Throne

“Dazzling, razor-sharp . . . prescient . . . a feast of political insight.”
–The Washington Post Book World

From the Hardcover edition.

About Carlos Fuentes

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The author of more than a dozen novels and story collections, Carlos Fuentes is Mexico's most celebrated novelist and critic. He has received numerous honors and awards throughout his lifetime, including the Miguel de Cervantes Prize and the Latin Literary Prize. Included among his books are Terra Nostra, Where the Air Is Clear, and Distant Relations. Alejandro Branger is a writer and filmmaker. He lives in New York City. Ethan Shaskan Bumas wrote the story collection The Price of Tea in China, which was a finalist for PEN America West Fiction Book of the Year. He teaches at New Jersey City University.
Published September 23, 2008 by Random House. 354 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Happy Families

The Guardian

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Carlos Fuentes's new short story collection takes its title and epigraph, tongue in cheek, from Tolstoy's famous (and questionable) aphorism: "All happy families resemble one another, but each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."

Oct 18 2008 | Read Full Review of Happy Families: Stories

San Francisco Chronicle

"naco guys with their knives and machetes assaulting the children of / good families" "dry skin and foaming mouths / they are the army of silence / they never speak / they communicate by signs."

Sep 28 2008 | Read Full Review of Happy Families: Stories


Many of the stories focus on ageing: there are ageing couples, ageing mothers, a pair of ageing brothers, even an ageing house.

Oct 17 2008 | Read Full Review of Happy Families: Stories

London Review of Books

Only at one or two moments do the sisters seem bound together in something like love by the past they share: ‘They separated, somewhat confused about their own attitudes, and embraced again as if a decisive warning – night falling, a period of time about to conclude, the end of the plot – obliged...

| Read Full Review of Happy Families: Stories

Bookmarks Magazine

Barringer Denver Post 4 of 5 Stars "These 16 stories continue to translate the universal complexities of national identity and desire into distinct Mexican variations on a well-known theme: the irreducible complexity of every family’s fundamental flaws.

Sep 21 2008 | Read Full Review of Happy Families: Stories

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