A fable for adults about loss, death, and love
By Marcia Facundo, Latino Print Media
In just about 90 pages â€” illustrated like in a children's book â€” Sandra Cisneros, author of â€œThe House on Mango Street,â€ reflects on the loss of a beloved one, the perseverance of love and our relationship with nature in her latest book â€œHave you seen Marie?â€ (Knopf and Vintage EspaÃ±ol, $21). Illustrated books are not just for children, as we soon learn from Cisneros, for â€œHave you seen Marie?â€ is really a fable for adults. Adorned with illustrations by Chicana artist Ester HernÃ¡ndez, 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 â€œlike a glove left at the bus station.â€ 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 HernÃ¡ndezâ€™ colorful illustrations that bring to life the stage where the story happens, Cisneros takes us through the streets of the King Williamâ€™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 â€œbig houses like wedding cakesâ€ 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: â€œHave you seen Marie?â€ 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 â€œHave you seen Marie?â€ â€œEven sadness has its place in the universe,â€ explains the author before she concludes that â€œlove never dies ... we keep getting and giving love after death.â€ Cisnerosâ€™ 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 â€œHave you seen Marie?,â€ this time highlighting how these two cultures collide, in Cisnerosâ€™ own words, â€œgive rise to something new.â€ The result is a message of renewal.