Amor Eterno

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Although competently written, these stories are more interesting as cultural anthropology than as literary fiction. Patricia Preciado Martin, best-known for her 1992 oral history collection of interviews with ten, mostly elderly, Mexican American women (Songs My Mother Sang to Me), has said the primarily purpose of her work is to raise awareness of the place of Hispanic women in Southwestern United States history.

The ten short stories in Amor Eterno: Eleven Lessons in Love are based on actual events told to Martin in which the emotion of love—a mother’s love for her son, a wife’s love for her dead husband, a young man’s love of the land—is the dominant theme. With such titles as “Lost Love,” “Long-Suffering Love,” “Forbidden Love,” “Enchanted Love,” and “Frustrated Love,” the stories are simple set-pieces recounted straightforwardly. Martin’s use of Mexican song lyrics, letters, recipes for fresh breath, and prayers to Saint Valentine further place this modest book within the genre of folklore rather than fiction.

Perhaps the most touching story in the collection is “Amor de Madre”: “Mother’s Love,” which focuses on a woman who makes a pilgrimage to pray for her son fighting in the Korean War in the 1950’s. Although some stories border precariously on the sentimental—for example, a piece about a woman who sets a plate at every meal for her dead husband—by the simple honesty of her characters and the uncluttered restraint of her prose style, for the most part, Preciado Martin avoids marring her stories with the maudlin.