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Tales from the Town of Widows Hardcover – January 2, 2007


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; First Edition edition (January 2, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061140384
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061140389
  • Product Dimensions: 1.3 x 6.3 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,006,746 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

On November 15, 1992, the men of the tiny Colombian town of Mariquita are forced by guerillas to join or die on the spot, which some do. The town's women enter a particularly grievous widowhood. Chapters covering the years that follow chronicle the town's decay and introduce women struggling to survive without men and without meaningful government. Cleotilde Guarnizo, a traveler seeking respite, is hired to be the schoolteacher. Dona Emilia laments the loss of clients for her brothel. Magnolia Morales, meanwhile, forms a group devoted to reminiscing about the men, which becomes a "magical whorehouse," where lonely women seduce men from neighboring Honda before they reach Dona Emilia's. After a storm washes away the access road leading to the village, the citizens no longer have contact with the outside world, and their haphazard magistrate Rosalba introduces the "Procreation Campaign," where 29 women have sexual relations with the lascivious priest (who turns out to be sterile). Throughout the narrative are short, first-person testimonies from the men, detailing their exploits (which sadden some while making others rejoice). Although Cañón, making his debut, crafts characters that shine, the book plods, only picking up speed when the women make a final attempt at uniting and reorganizing their community. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School—In this thought-provoking Latin-American fable, the Colombia countryside has been devastated by 40 years of civil war. Leftist guerrillas, rightist paramilitaries, and government soldiers come spouting different political slogans, but leave indistinguishable horror in their wake. In the village of Mariquita, soldiers arrive to demand volunteers; when none are forthcoming, they kill or kidnap the men and traumatize the women and children. Bereft, the women flounder at first; old rivalries are indulged, the town's infrastructure deteriorates, and Mariquita is increasingly cut off from the outside world. The inhabitants are often exasperating, but their postapocalyptic yet nonviolent village proves to be a vivid setting for human nature to be revealed and culture reinvented. Ultimately they create a way of life suited to their resources and their female realities, and it is a delight to see this process unfold. The women's stories (and those of the few remaining males, all with unforgettable stories of their own) have the flavor of folktales—tragic, funny, rich, and magical. In briefer alternating episodes, men's stories of their experiences in the war are related in starkly realistic, intense fashion. The theme of a world in which women and men are separated and pursue divergent paths is always intriguing, and has been explored by a number of fine writers in science fiction, fantasy, polemic, and utopian modes. This title stands among the best of them.—Christine C. Menefee, formerly at Fairfax County Public Library, VA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

More About the Author

James was born and raised in Colombia. After majoring in Advertising in Bogota, he moved to New York to study English. He received his MFA in Creative Writing from Columbia University.
His debut novel, Tales from the Town of Widows & Chronicles from the Land of Men, has been published in over twenty countries. It won Le Prix du Premier Roman Etranger 2008 (Best First Foreign Novel Prize) and Le Prix des Lecteurs Vincennes 2008. The American School Library Journal chose it as one of the "Ten Best Adult Books of the year for HS students," and it was a finalist for both the 2008 Edmund White Fiction Award, and a 2008 Lambda Literary Award for Best Debut Fiction.
James is the recipient of the Henfield Prize for Excellence in Fiction, a fellowship in fiction from the New York Foundation for the Arts, and awards from the Queens Council on the Arts, the New York Urban Artist Initiative, and the U.S. National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts. He's currently at work on a new novel.

Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By B.A. Wall on May 16, 2008
Format: Paperback
Okay so I saw this book was nominated for a number of gay male book awards and was intrigued as the description says nothing about it being a gay novel, and rightly so, it's not really. I would say it's more of a feminist utopia written by a gay man.

The book is a collection of stories about the women left from a town where all the men were either kidnapped or killed by guerrillas. Interspersed between these stories are short snippets, usually 2 or 3 pages at most, of interviews with guerrillas some of whom where from this town.

As for the gay stuff, there are two chapters devoted to "the other widows", both gay men. One who hid by pretending to be a girl, and still living as a girl, the other who just happened to be at an outlying farm when the guerrillas came to town. Also towards the end of the book some of the women begin to express their love for each other, both physically and emotionally. Most of the book, however, concerns the lives of the women left behind and how they pick themselves up and create a life and town out of the devastation of their consequences.

From here I could go on a tangent about why books with minor or secondary gay content get nominated for gay specific awards when the majority of the book is not gay, but I won't it would take too much time. As for the book, it is well-written and it's obvious the author has talent and has been schooled in the art of writing. Some parts are a little slow and the book drags a bit in the middle, but it does offer an arresting look at the lives of people who live in a country constantly torn by internal strife and warfare written by an emerging new writer.

If you are looking for that kind of story this is the book for you, if you are looking for a gay novel, look elsewhere.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Jayme L. Mcdaniel on January 18, 2007
Format: Hardcover
In the tradition of Laura Esquivel's LIKE WATER FOR CHOCOALTE this stunning debut novel relies on delicious doses of magical realism to entrance the reader into the extraordinary realm of Maraquita, Columbia, a hamlet reborn with visionary ideas of social, political and environmental responsibilites. I became hypnotized with the introduction of these abandonded women whom are forced to re-invent themselves and their society. Employing humor, despair and sometimes shock these tales intoxicate and inspire!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Hernan A. Sanchez on April 3, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This book marks the arrival of a writer I'm very sure will become a household name in the near future. James Canon is a very talented writer and this book proves the depth of his imagination. It tells the story of how the women from a small town in the Andes mountains of Colombia struggle to survive after all the men are forcibly taken or executed by the guerrillas. James Canon moved to the States from Colombia to study English and ended up getting a writing degree from Columbia University. He wrote this book in English, so there is nothing lost in the translation. He weaves a modern day tale which includes magical realism, war dispatches, heartfelt love and much more. Each chapter is followed by a chronicle from the land of men in which members of the leftist guerrillas, the paramilitary forces and the Colombian army share their experiences of the endless war. I was very touched by this book and highly recommend it.
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By Robert Gompers on March 29, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Tales from the Town of Widows is a wildly imaginative book filled with vivid imagery and rich and layered stories that leave you wanting more at the end of each chapter.
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By michele gourlay on September 25, 2008
Format: Paperback
Bienvenidos a Mariquita....

A great story in a Columbian village with amazing characters ...James Canon's writing is intelligent, describing characters, situations with humanity and humor.....
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