Introduction to an Excerpt from Living Life

Vivir la Vida
BY Sara Sefchovich
(Alfaguara, 2001)

In Sara Sefchovich’s novel, Living Life (Vivir la vida), the reader follows the adventures of the protagonist, Susana, after she leaves her childhood home and her overly protective and highly superstitious grandmother and nana to live with her gorgeous new husband, Paco, in the huge metropolis that is Mexico City. This ingénue has little life experience and must depend on her grandmother’s old-fashioned advice and inscrutable warnings to guide her as she embarks on married life. Her grandma and nana repeatedly tell her that her husband is the only one who should take off her wedding dress and make her a woman – anything else would be risking eternal bad luck.

However, Susana doesn’t know what’s supposed to happen after the groom takes off the bride’s wedding dress. Nor does she realize her new husband has no interest in women or consummating their marriage whatsoever, so she takes her grandmother’s advice literally and spends the first week of married life in her wedding dress trying to avoid eternal bad luck and hoping her husband will finally free her from the yards and yards of tulle and silk she’s been sleeping in.

The novel’s chapters are comprised of carefully crafted vignettes. Each one is an unsettling mixture of the tragic with the ridiculous, the mundane with the grotesque, or the inhumane with the kindness of strangers. Yet each vignette depicts a level of truth, reality, and uncertainty that is Mexico. The reader begins to wonder if one woman could experience so many bizarre coincidences and calamitous encounters in her lifetime, or if life in Mexico is truly stranger than fiction.

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