January 2008

Angela Stubbs

fiction

Twin Time: Or, How Death Befell Me by Veronica Gonzalez

Veronica Gonzalez knows her roots. In this debut work, Twin Time: Or How Death Befell Me attempts to deal with characters that are a bit more conflicted about their beginnings. Gonzalez tells the story of what happens when we create fantasies in order to deal with the harsher realities that exist beneath the surface. Here the reader is made passenger on an obsessive journey for the truth by way of mystical figures, bakers, strangers and those who we call family.

The novel introduces us to Mara, a young woman discontent with her life in New Mexico and thus living in a wonderful world of make-believe brought about by regular visits to the cinema. Music and film serve as Mara’s escape from reality in her teenage years. Once pregnant, Mara is forced to abandon some of her fantasies and focus on the reality of her situation. Once she gives birth to Mona, the novel continues with the surreal and fantastical as we watch Mona try to figure out who her family really is. Gonzalez knows how to tell a good story and she handles multiple narratives with ease.

Like authors Gertrude Stein, Aimee Bender and Salvador Plascencia, she experiments with form and style while keeping the attention of the reader and feeding us both reality and fantasy. Postmodern fiction is littered with fairy-tales and mythic figures but Mona’s story is actually based in reality. Mona, like her mother, is only able to deal with her life by living in a world of myths and make-believe. Twin Time focuses on Mona’s relationship with the man she believes to be her father and her quest to find her twin brother. Mona’s father has told her that her mother died minutes after her birth and her twin brother was given away. As Mona gets older she is forced to take on these complex family issues by facing these stories and how she fits into all of it. Her father, an immigrant and baker, is the only person left to fill in the gaps of her familial past, but what Mona doesn’t know is that the man raising her isn’t who she thinks he is. It’s after his eventual death that she sets out to find the “real” truth about her family.

Gonzalez breaks down this novel into three narratives, Mona, the father and, Mara, Mona’s mother. As the story opens we’re introduced to Mara’s point of view, but soon after our introduction the reader realizes that she’s not the most trustworthy narrator. As Mona is left to rely on her father’s stories and the sweets he’s constantly trying to feed her, we also wonder how much of his saccharine-filled recollections are really true. Everyone in Mona’s life is busy making up encounters and pasts, so it seems only natural that Mona would at some point be destined to do so as well. Mona shies away from the treats and sweets but yearns for the real story of her parents' past together. The best Papa can offer are his own fictionalized accounts of Mara and her final day with him. Mona, doomed to follow in her mother and father’s footsteps, makes up her own version of things too. Mona at one point in the novel comes up with some glittering details of her parent’s courtship and marriage.

The prose gets better and better as Mona gets transitions from reality to fantasy. There, after Mona's father’s death, she sets out to find her twin brother. It’s on this fantastic journey that she brings along her father’s ashes as her companion, introducing others to them as if he were still alive. She runs into feral humans, her Chinese twin and a group of Nordic men as she maneuvers her way through what seems to be one of Grimm’s Fairy Tales gone awry. Gonzales has given Mona the ability to create twisted and complicated stories about her parents and their lives as well as ever-changing landscapes like Mexico City that exist only for Mona’s imaginary playground. Identity is a big theme in this novel and it’s within this work that we notice each character being dominated by other people’s stories and lives instead of their own, essentially losing a bit of their own identity to the fictionalized version of what they believe themselves to be.

As Twin Time progresses, Gonzalez sets Mona free of her fantasy life and of her mother’s bad habits. Perhaps it’s how she’s embraced these quirks and oddities that allow her to be set free. Childhood can be as painful or as pretty as we choose to remember it and Gonzalez has helped show us that we each require different things from life and our surroundings to fit in.

Twin Time: Or, How Death Befell Me by Veronica Gonzalez
Semiotext(e)
ISBN: 1584350482
288 Pages