TITLE: Virgins & Tricksters
AUTHOR: Rosalie Morales Kearns
GENRE: Literary Fiction / Short Story Collection
PUBLISHER: Aqueous Books
PAGES: 335 pp.
BINDING: Trade Paperback
EDITION: 2nd print
RELEASE DATE: Dec. 2015
Virgins & Tricksters…
These quirky, exuberant stories range from the Caribbean to small-town Pennsylvania to a post-apocalyptic state forest. A noted psychologist and lifelong religious skeptic is scolded by tiny statues of the Virgin Mary. Remedios, a recent college graduate, explores the Afro-Puerto Rican spirituality of her grandparents and discovers a history book that is writing itself. Dissident geologist Pilar Quiñones is shut out of a shelter during a bio-chemical attack and winds up in a forest presided over by a joyful Devil. In the story cycle “The Wives,” we hear from the exiled ex-wife of a 20th-Century revolutionary-turned-dictator, the abandoned wife of an 18th-Century pirate, the restless wife of a 10th-Century priest, and the deposed, indignant wife of God himself. Veering between the realistic and the fabulist, these tales might best be described as whimsical-realist or magic-absurdist. A number of them have been published in literary journals such as Painted Bride Quarterly, Natural Bridge, Terrain, Specs, Segue, and Fringe. “The Associated Virgins” earned a Special Mention in the 2013 Pushcart Prize volume.
Rosalie Morales Kearns is a writer of Puerto Rican and Pennsylvania Dutch descent whose stories and poems have appeared in The Nervous Breakdown, Witness, Painted Bride Quarterly, and other journals. She has recently completed a novel, Kingdom of Women, which focuses on a female Roman Catholic priest in an alternative near-future; and is in the planning stages of her next novel, which takes place in Russia and follows five friends from the Bolshevik Revolution through World War II. She has an MFA from the University of Illinois, and has taught creative writing at Illinois and SUNY-Albany.
Rosalie Morales Kearns’ collection Virgins & Tricksters is full of succinct, smart tales rooted in and rooting around in a female-centered spirituality. Far from abstract, they are rich and strong characters and vivid particulars. A granddaughter explores the African roots of Puerto Rican santeria; we hear from God’s wife and the wife of a pirate. Magic and folklore pop out of everyday encounters.
—Marge Piercy, author of 17 novels, including New York Times bestseller Gone to Soldiers
Virgins and Tricksters by Rosalie Morales Kearns, brims with color and kinetic power, with black raspberries, understory elms, Cassius Blue butterflies. Pirates leap out of a book to gorge on lemons. But solitude and yearning play out against this replete backdrop, and even magic and religion offer no cure: A woman fears but misses her revered, revolutionary husband; a little girl is startled that she won’t be ordained a priest. After a sexual encounter he knows won’t go beyond his memories, a boy watches a mechanical fortuneteller improvise human gestures. Everyone is caught gently off-guard by dreams at war with our world of rituals and of fossilizing bones, whether dinosaur or human, whether hidden in history or inside a recent photograph.
“The Associated Virgins,” a humorous gem, offers the cry: “What Alfred Kinsey did with sex, Elihu Wingate wants to do with—what?” An expert on consumer impulses, Elihu lives in an empty house until his parents and remarried ex-wife move in, and a battalion of pushy Virgin Mary statues demands a grotto. Hovering is a longing for a woman met during a distant flight. If regret spikes this poignant tale, the anchor piece, “Triptych,” is antidote: It’s a little masterpiece of carefully observed lives—Larry with breathtakingly long hair emerges as one of the most memorable characters a reader can hope to find—and when divergent paths merge, the book concludes with a satisfying upsweep: Solitary beings settle inside mystery. Virgins and Tricksters contains the line “water and a pinch of salt, this is what we’re made of,” but it also points at the byways where connection can unleash aché, “the vital life force, present in everything.”
—Katherine Vaz, author of Saudade, Mariana, Fado & Other Stories, and Our Lady of the Artichokes