Review: The Black Cathedral by Marcial Gala

The Black Cathedral by Marcial Gala (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux 2020)

Reviewed by Megan Foster

A good man is hard to find, as they say. This is certainly the case in Cuban author Marcial Gala’s The Black Cathedral, a darkly comic novel that buzzes around the Stewart family’s fated arrival to Cienfuegos. Arturo Stewart moves with his wife Carmen and their three children – David King, Samuel Prince, and Johannes – with the express purpose of constructing a titular cathedral to outshine any temple in Cuba and make Cienfuegos the new Jerusalem. It doesn’t take long for the neighborhood to suspect that the Stewarts are not what they seem.  Readers must determine whom to trust as the novel rapidly flits through everyone’s point of view but the Stewarts: town gossips, classmates, a school principal, an architect, a drag queen, ghosts, a serial killer. In a town spurred by greed and violence, no one is holier than thou. 

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Review: Breasts and Eggs by Mieko Kawakami

Breasts and Eggs by Mieko Kawakami (Europa Editions 2020)

Reviewed by Megan Foster

Three women in Japan wrestle with the nature of the body and the self. 

Natsuko is a struggling writer when her older sister, Makiko, and Makiko’s teenage daughter, Midoriko, come to visit for a few days. Makiko has made the journey to Tokyo to explore affordable options for breast enhancements. Midoriko, who hasn’t spoken a word to her mother in six months, privately wrestles with her own changing body and turns to her journal for companionship. A climactic clash occurs between Makiko and Midorko before the two return home, and the narrative flashes forward in time ten years. Natsuko has managed to publish one collection of stories but, even more than her struggle to write a novel, wrestles with her desire to have a child.  Without a partner, Natsuko seeks other possible means to fulfill her deepest wish to be a mother as she continues to grow older alone. 

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