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“The truth is that, however painful it is to admit it, at some time or other, all women are deceived by their husbands. It’s like the menopause: it may come sooner or later; but nobody gets away scot-free.”

This breezy commentary by Inez Pereyra, wife of Ernesto, belies her initial shock at discovering a lipstick love-heart, saying “All Yours,” inside her husband’s briefcase and her realization that her husband of seventeen years is probably having an affair. From Inez’s point of view, things have been stressful in the month leading up to this discovery. The housework, she explains, has been “exhausting” because she wants everything to be “perfect,” but life has been bearable, and she has not wanted to go looking for trouble (as her mother did, to her own misfortune). Ernesto has been coming home late, working on weekends, and avoiding her, and except for school meetings involving a senior trip for their daughter Lali, he has been physically AWOL for most of the month. For Inez, selfish and deliberately obtuse, however, “The truth is…why confront Ernesto with some big scenario, when this woman’s going to be history in a week anyway?”

When he gets an “emergency” call late at night demanding that he come immediately to to the office to deal with a computer crisis, he leaves the house, and Inez, on the alert, slips out, close behind. At the rendezvous, which turns out to be in Palermo Woods, a park in Buenos Aires, she discovers his secretary making advances towards Ernesto. Angry, he pushes her away. For Inez, watching behind a tree, “Such was his bad luck, that her head caught a blow on a tree trunk…and she was knocked cold.” When resuscitation efforts fail, Inez is stumped about how to proceed, at first. “I didn’t know what to do,” she tells the reader. “I couldn’t exactly step out from behind the tree and say ‘Shall I give you a hand, Ernesto?’ ” Believing that “what Ernesto and I had to do now was to put this episode behind us and move on,” Inez decides to help out and save her marriage in the process. Without telling Ernesto what she is doing to hide the accident and give him an alibi, Inez gets to work on his behalf, seeing him as “a monkey with a gun. Really dangerous…If I didn’t grab the reins, we’d be lost.”

In the classic (and very dark) farce which emerges from this opening scene and becomes the body of the novel, Inez exploits her husband’s predicament for her own ends, becoming the perfect wife, even as he continues to remain distant, a situation which absolutely begs for conversion into a play or film. The plot moves at warp speed, with twists and turns, surprises galore, and ironies which will keep even a jaded reader entertained and anxious to see how the author will resolve these issues—and laughing out loud almost non-stop.

A secondary plot and a new point of view involving Lali, the daughter of Inez and Ernesto, run parallel to the main plot and add further complications to this already twisted story, while adding insights into to a second generation of women. Lali has a secret which she shares with a friend, as she, like Inez, reveals herself through her dialogue and first person point of view. Eventually, a third point of view emerges—that of the police reports. These, too, carry their own surprises and dark ironies.

As in most farces, the characters are stereotypes, but the points of view here are so lively and well drawn, despite this, that one feels as if the characters are bigger than they are. In films and plays of farces, the emphasis is usually on sight gags and physical humor, but here, the author is dependent on great writing (and a great translator, in this case Miranda France) to make Inez’s behavior and point of view patently absurd without being silly–and at least as funny as sight gags would be.

Author Claudia Pineiro, an Argentinian author, formerly a journalist and writer for television, writes a delightfully tongue-in-cheek send-up of marriage, the plight of women, and their resourcefulness when pushed to the brink, as she takes the adage “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” to completely new levels. If you are looking for a novel to get the New Year off to a rollicking start, this one will keep you smiling for hours.

Photos, in order: The author’s photo appears on http://revistapm.wordpress.com

The lake beside the rose garden in Palermo Park becomes a focal point of the novel.  http://tripatlas.com

ALSO by Pineiro:  THURSDAY NIGHT WIDOWS and     A CRACK IN THE WALL

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