Martínez, Nina Marie
MARTÍNEZ, Nina Marie
Writer. Vintage clothing dealer.
¡Caramba! A Tale Told in Turns of the Card (novel), Knopf (New York, NY), 2004.
WORK IN PROGRESS:
A second novel.
Nina Marie Martínez's first novel, ¡Caramba! A Tale Told in Turns of the Card, narrates the adventures of best friends Natalie and Consuelo, along with numerous quirky characters in their fictional hometown of La Lava, California, located on the Mexican border. Natalie and Consuelo, attractive young Mexican-American women, work in a factory and spend their leisure time shopping, going to the local tavern, flirting with men—while vowing to let no man come between them—and joy-riding in Natalie's Cadillac convertible. Other characters include their friend Javier, a mariachi musician and evangelical Christian; his girlfriend, Lucha, a drug dealer seeking to avenge her cousin's long-ago rape; True-Dee, a transsexual hairdresser; and the ghost of Consuelo's father, Don Pancho, who seeks Consuelo's aid in escaping purgatory. For this, she needs Natalie's assistance, because it involves travel to Mexico and Consuelo has a dislike of both long car rides and mass transportation. The extensively illustrated novel's various sections are tied to cards from the Mexican game Loteria.
In ¡Caramba! "the boundaries between the fantastic and the real aren't entirely clear," noted Carmela Ciuraru in the Washington Post Book World. Gender boundaries are also blurry, observed Edith M. Vasquez in Women's Review of Books. Vasquez stated that ¡Caramba! "uninhibitedly portrays the flimsiness of sex and gender norms," using Mexican sayings that usually "carry conservative moral messages or restrictive gender values" and "endowing them with new feminist and cultural import." Vasquez noted that the novel "creates humor out of what Martínez convinces us are the all too serious matters of language, authenticity, and folk wisdom." Ciuraru found the comedy sometimes strained and the story superficial, but commented that the book "is so endlessly inventive and full of such oddball humor that it remains compelling throughout." She added, "Had [Martínez] infused ¡Caramba! with more depth, this could have been a great novel instead of a merely clever one." Similarly, a Kirkus Reviews critic called ¡Caramba! "totally inconsequential and a great deal of fun." A Publishers Weekly contributor, though, saw "truth behind the zany humor … truth telling about love and happiness in life and death." In Booklist, Donna Seaman also praised Martínez for exploring serious issues within "this smart, antic, sexy, and funny frolic." Vasquez summed up the book by commenting, "The fun and games hold a deeper meaning and are not ultimately gratuitous. ¡Caramba! celebrates the humanity and grace of Mexican and woman-centered conviviality."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, March 1, 2004, Donna Seaman, review of ¡Caramba! A Tale Told in Turns of the Card, p. 149.
Boston Globe, June 13, 2004, Paul Kafka-Gibbons, review of ¡Caramba!, p. H9.
Entertainment Weekly, April 23, 2004, Jennifer Reese, review of ¡Caramba!, p. 87.
Houston Chronicle, May 23, 2004, Fritz Lanham, review of ¡Caramba!, p. 18.
Kirkus Reviews, February 1, 2004, review of ¡Caramba!, p. 103.
Library Journal, January, 2004, Andrea Kempf, review of ¡Caramba!, p. 159.
Publishers Weekly, February 16, 2004, review of ¡Caramba!, p. 149.
Washington Post Book World, July 4, 2004, Carmela Ciuraru, review of ¡Caramba!, p. 8.
Women's Review of Books, June, 2004, Edith M. Vasquez, review of ¡Caramba!, p. 26.*