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Book Review: Quesadillas by Juan Pablo Villalobos

Starring aliens, cow inseminators,
and children named for ancient scholars!
     I know this book is good because I shook with silent laughter while reading it on the subway.  I was so enraptured that I did not mind the silent judgments of my fellow passengers - all that mattered to me was the madness I was reading.  
     Quesadillas is called Quesadillas because that is all that the protagonist, Orestes, and his impoverished family can afford to eat.  The setting is Mexico during the 1980s', a time of economic and political turmoil for the country.  The endless inflation, corruption, and poverty which Orestes's family is forced to endure is so extreme (though true) that it seems absurd.  But instead of trying to piece together a traditional narrative with this absurdity as a backdrop, Villalobos gives the absurdity free reign and allows it to run the story.  UFOs, hysterical pilgrims, a Polish cow inseminator, a universal remote control, and pretend twins all wreck random havoc in Orestes's life. 
     This book's primary goal seems to be to destroy any romantic notions Western readers may have about Mexico and to replace them with outrage at what the Mexican people have suffered at the hands of their government.  But Villalobos fulfills this goal in a way that is as funny as it is enraging.

     - Carly


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