Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 479
Sacred Families comprises three connected novellas about the middle class. The first one, “Chattanooga Choo-Choo,” revolves around two couples who have recently met. Their encounter begins as a superficial relationship that becomes more serious when Sylvia Corday, who is married to Ramon del Solar, has an affair with Anselmo Prieto, Magdalena’s husband. On the night on which they consummate the affair, Anselmo notices that Sylvia does not have a face or a pair of arms. Upon her request, he provides her with a mouth using red paper. After consummating their affair, Anselmo realizes that a vital part of his male anatomy has disappeared. What follows is a sequence of events that inform the reader that the wives have been playing a game in which they have disassembled their husbands’ bodily parts and are keeping them in a briefcase. The women have given special attention to that one vital male part; they keep their husbands’ penises in a little velvet bag, and they interchange them frequently.
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The second novella, “Green Atom Number Five,” unfolds to reveal Roberto and Marta, a middle-aged couple who have purchased a brand-new apartment. The apartment represents the fulfillment of their lifelong dream. They proceed to furnish the dwelling with the finest things: as a finishing touch to the decoration of their home, they compromise in placing Roberto’s oil painting, Green Atom Number Five, on the wall nearest the front door. After the departure of a visitor, they notice that the painting has disappeared, which puzzles them very much. In a series of circumstances, everything is taken away before their very eyes and they find themselves unable to do anything. After losing everything they become increasingly vicious toward each other, eventually ending up naked and fighting like mad dogs.
The third novella, “Gaspard de la Nuit,” pivots around Mauricio, who is coming to visit his mother, Sylvia, for three months. He has been living with his father and grandmother, “Abuelis,” since his parents were divorced seven years previously. Mauricio neither likes nor approves of his mother’s lifestyle and does not want to become part of the society in which she lives, much to her frustration and dismay. Instead, he goes out every day and spends his time strolling the streets while whistling a Maurice Ravel piece Gaspard de la Nuit, and trying to find a soul mate. One day, in a forest, he meets a vagabond about his age whom he teaches to whistle the Ravel piece. He and the vagabond become closely acquainted until a fantastical sort of metamorphosis occurs: Mauricio becomes the vagabond and the latter becomes Mauricio. After that, the situation at home improves greatly, since the new Mauricio accepts all the material things with which his mother has been trying to bribe him in an attempt to keep her son at home. Mauricio’s changed attitude makes everyone happy.