A fable for adults about loss, death, and love

by Melanie Davis
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By Marcia Facundo, Latino Print Media
In just about 90 pages — illustrated like in a children's book — Sandra Cisneros, author of “The House on Mango Street,†reflects on the loss of a beloved one, the perseverance of love and our relationship with nature in her latest book “Have you seen Marie?†(Knopf and Vintage Español, $21). Illustrated books are not just for children, as we soon learn from Cisneros, for “Have you seen Marie?†is really a fable for adults. Adorned with illustrations by Chicana artist Ester Hernández, the book is an insightful tale about how even after death, the love of the departed will always be with us.
The story is told by a 53-year-old woman who has just lost her mother and feels “like a glove left at the bus station.†She is visited by her friend Rosalind, who brings along a cat named Marie. The feline soon runs away and immediately the two women begin to search for Marie. Aided by Hernández’ colorful illustrations that bring to life the stage where the story happens, Cisneros takes us through the streets of the King William’s neighborhood in San Antonio, Texas, made up of a number of historic homes as colorful and diverse as the people who live in the area, like Reverend Chavana, who promised to pray for the cat, or cowboy David, who offered to go looking for her by the river on his horse. Beyond the historic streets and “big houses like wedding cakes†of King William Street, the two women arrive at the O. Henry footbridge and suddenly stop to look at the sky and begin talking to the squirrels, the dogs, and the cats. The narrator then goes to the river and asks: “Have you seen Marie?†From this moment on, she begins her own journey towards finding herself and healing her pain. As we later learn in the book's epilogue, Cisneros wrote this book while she was going through a difficult period of her life, after the death of her mother and in a situation similar to the one described in “Have you seen Marie?†“Even sadness has its place in the universe,†explains the author before she concludes that “love never dies ... we keep getting and giving love after death.†Cisneros’ previous work has been recognized for her ability to tell stories that reflect the cultural hybridity of Latinos living in the United States and the sense of belonging to two cultures. She does it again in “Have you seen Marie?,†this time highlighting how these two cultures collide, in Cisneros’ own words, “give rise to something new.†The result is a message of renewal.