LINE OF DESCENT: A NOVEL As yet unpublished
Yolanda Prudence O’Brian––introspective, often whimsical, addicted to looking up seemingly unrelated information––worries about descending into dementia, a threat to her work as a translator and to her lifelong conflicted sense of identity. Just turned seventy, she fantasizes leaving the security of her increasingly reclusive Manhattan existence to return to the Latin America of her childhood there to put an end to her life should her mind continue to fail. Weaving in and out of Yolanda’s present and past, Line of Descent uncovers the inextricable connection of English and Spanish to her troubled relationships with her deceased New England mother and Mexican-Irish father as well as with the maids who raised Yolanda; she was their adored child and, as interpreter for her mother, their reluctant boss. Sorting through family memorabilia she’s avoided for years, memories and surprising discoveries lead Yolanda to a deeper understanding of her parents and herself prompting a radical decision to break free of a life she’s built over decades and settle in Havana, perhaps forever.
A graying neurologist who looked like he played golf on weekends had her count from one hundred back to one in multiples of seven and repeat a string of unrelated words after a break of unrelated conversation. Your problem is you don’t concentrate, he concluded. My mind works by association, she objected. True. Establishing links between one word and another is the only way she can make sense of anything. As she walked out of his office she felt his hand grope the length of her back down to her tailbone. She cancelled the follow-up appointment and decided against further examination. . . .
Her father is getting out of the car. Yolanda shocks into a run. She’s got to stop him. But even if he hadn’t been yelling and waving his gun, she needs to get back into the car, crouch down on the floor so the dusty children with almost no clothes can’t see her, can’t see the embroidered dress their mother had ironed, can’t see her white cotton socks and shiny black patent leather shoes. Minutes earlier, she’d been so proud of that outfit. Luisa too had been proud, turning her around, smoothing a crumple in the fabric. “Oh qué bonita! Mi linda princesita.” My beautiful little princess, Luisa said. My princess, mine. She is Luisa’s little princess. . . .