The Fourteen Sisters of Emilio Montez O'Brien

The Fourteen Sisters of Emilio Montez O'Brien

by Oscar Hijuelos
     
 

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In The Fourteen Sisters of Emilio Montez O'Brien, Oscar Hijuelos brings to life the rambunctious Montez O'Brien family. In a small Pennsylvania town, Nelson O'Brien runs the Jewel Box Movie Theater, raising 14 daughters and a son with his wife, Mariela Montez. Through the eyes of Margarita, the eldest daughter, the lives, loves and tragedies of

Overview

In The Fourteen Sisters of Emilio Montez O'Brien, Oscar Hijuelos brings to life the rambunctious Montez O'Brien family. In a small Pennsylvania town, Nelson O'Brien runs the Jewel Box Movie Theater, raising 14 daughters and a son with his wife, Mariela Montez. Through the eyes of Margarita, the eldest daughter, the lives, loves and tragedies of the Montez O'Briens and their complex family relationships unfold. While reflecting on the life of Emilio, her doggedly masculine brother, Margarita also ruminates on the nature of femininity, family, sex, love and earthly happiness. Her musings recall exhilarating adventures, eliciting tears and laughter, and tenderly reveal the bounteous heart of a warm, passionate family. At once lush, erotic and gorgeously written, The Fourteen Sisters of Emilio Montez O'Brien is a masterwork by one of America's greatest writers.

Editorial Reviews

San Francisco Chronicle
A marvelous novel...[Hijuelos's] range is impressive, his storytelling fluid...his scope exuberant and full of life.
New Yorker
Exuberant, richly detailed.
New York Times Book Review
One finishes The Fourteen Sisters reluctantly, the way one finishes a long letter from a beloved family member, eager for all the news not to end.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Hijuelos's second novel, The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1990 and was a crossover sensation. His depiction of two Cuban brothers making music in New York City was hailed both for its intimate knowledge of immigrant life and for its unrestrained celebration of carnal delights. Here, Hijuelos has taken his trademark concerns--the travails of cultural assimilation and the wonders of the flesh--to extraordinary lengths, with mixed results. In a style that combines the exuberance of Garcia Marquez with the dogged genealogies of Oscar Lewis's La Vida, Hijuelos tells of the Montez O'Brien family of Cobbleton, Pa. Nelson O'Brien, an Irishman, meets Mariela Montez while he is fighting the Spaniards in her native Cuba in 1898. They fall in love and marry; Nelson embarks on a career as a photographer and moviehouse manager, and sires 15 children—14 daughters and one son, Emilio. Unfortunately, Hijuelos is unable to bring the huge family to life. Instead, he falls back upon a single observation—that the overwhelmingly female household exudes a feminine allure powerful enough to pull a circus pilot and his plane right out of the air, as happens in the book's opening scene. This magic realism (monarch butterflies and flocks of birds follow the sisters around) grows wearying after continued deployment, and the sexual coquettishness within the family (one sister suckles Emilio, another pines for his "barbed masculinity'') borders on the deviant. The Montez O'Briens are followed from the Depression through the two world wars and Vietnam, and then up to the present, but this immigrant tale seems unnaturally beatific: Emilio goes to Hollywood, three sisters headline in New York nightclubs; another is a psychic; yet another sends a child to Yale. The predominant struggles are with love, and the ultimate consolations are in family. Unable to rope this sprawling brood into purposeful direction, Hijuelos loses his grip on the story, with a formal omniscient narration overwhelming what at times seems to be the older sister Margarita's point of view. Despite Hijuelos's matchless, soaring prose, the novel, like the poor airman, cannot stay aloft. (Mar. )
Library Journal
Hijuelos, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love, has written a beautiful pastorale, loosely based on the idea of the limited text implied by photographs, in which the lives of 17 characters are developed. From the early 1900s to the 1980s, the Montez O'Brien family lives in a small town in Pennsylvania. As the title suggests, the family consists of an Irish father, Cuban mother, 14 daughters, and one son. Hijuelos interweaves their individual lives and loves, as in a family photo album, but reserves the fullest treatment for the eldest daughter, mother, father, and only son, who becomes a B-movie star and befriends, among others, Errol Flynn. Sexual liaisons play an important role, and Hijuelos composes women's stories with a loving hand. Readers looking for a strong plot and the urban sensibility of Hijuelos's earlier books will be disappointed; those whose interest is good writing will enjoy themselves.
—Harold Augenbraum, Mercantile Lib., New York

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780060975944
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
12/28/2003
Series:
Harper Perennial
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
484
Product dimensions:
5.72(w) x 7.92(h) x 1.20(d)

Meet the Author

Oscar Hijuelos was born of Cuban parentage in New York City in 1951. He is a recipient of the Rome Prize, the Pulitzer Prize, and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation, among others. His five previous novels have been translated into twenty-five languages.

Oscar Hijuelos nació de padres cubanos en Nueva York en 1951. Sus otras novelas incluyen Mr. Ives' Christmas, The Fourteen Sisters of Emilio Montez O'Brien, Our House in the Last World y A Simple Havana Melody (Una Sencilla Melodía Habanera). Vive en Nueva York.

Brief Biography

Hometown:
New York, New York
Date of Birth:
August 24, 1951
Place of Birth:
New York, New York
Education:
B.A., City College of the City University of New York, 1975; M.A.,1976

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