The People of Paper

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  • Edition: 1st
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2006-11-13
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

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THE PEOPLE OF PAPER is an astonishing debut novel about the anguish of lost love. Author Salvador Plascencia, a "once-in-a-generation talent" (George Saunders), weaves together the stories of a large cast of colorful characters, including: a disgruntled monk, a father and daughter, a gang of carnation pickers, and a woman made of paper.

Author Biography

SALVADOR PLASCENCIA was born in Guadalajara, Mexico, and now lives in Los Angeles. He is a graduate of Whittier College and holds an MFA from Syracuse University.
A Los Angeles Times Bestseller
A Los Angeles Times Favorite Book of 2005
A San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of 2005


CHAPTERONEyyySATURNFederico de la Fe discovered a cure for remorse. A remorse that started by the river of Las Tortugas. Every Tuesday Federico de la Fe and Merced carried their conjugal mattress past the citrus orchard and laid it down at the edge of the river. Federico de la Fe would take out his sickle and split open the mattress at the seams while Merced sucked on the limes she plucked from the orchard. Merced sent Federico de la Fe across the river to cut fresh straw and mint leaves while she pulled straw, wet with urine, from the open mattress. For the first five years of their marriage Merced felt no shame in having a husband who wet his bed. She got used to the smell of piss and mint in the morning. And she could not imagine making love without the fermenting stench of wet hay underneath her. When Little Merced was born, Merced joked about Federico de la Fe giving up his cotton under-briefs in exchange for cloth diapers like the ones their daughter wore. But instead both child and husband slept in the nude, curled around Merced. The ratio of mint leaves to hay was increased; and although Merced feared chafing, she spread white sand on the bed to absorb the moisture.But Merced grew impatient when Little Merced learned to use the chamber pot and Federico de la Fes penis continued to drip on the sheets. This is the last straw Im putting into this mattress, she told Federico de la Fe at the river. A wife can only take so many years of being pissed on.Federico de la Fe went to the botanica to find a remedy, because he could not think of anything sadder than losing Merced. The curandero behind the counter gave him a green ointment to rub on his groin and two boiled turtle eggs to chew, a prescription designed to cure his enuresis. As Federico de la Fe chewed on the shells and meat of the eggs and spread the salve, he felt the weight of a distant force looking down on him.LITTLE MERCEDThe medication failed. My mother got up from the bed and wiped the wet sand from her back. She left my father as he slept and I stared at her long and tangled hair. When my father awoke and discovered that my mother was not in the house or in the river washing herself, his sadness began. Merced, it is just you and me, he said with a voice that was sore and full of sadness.My mother was gone and my father chased goats and sheep to bring me milk. At night, instead of sleeping nestled between my mothers breasts, I slept next to my father and felt the wet warmth that had driven her away.It was not until I turned eleven that my father discovered a cure for his decade of sadness, a cure that he never revealed to me. With his sadness the cure also took away his need for washed sheets and fresh straw and mint leaves. If only I had stopped when you were a little girl and your mother was still here, he said, but his sore voice had healed.Two weeks after losing his sadness, my father told me to put my things in the pillowcases that my mother had s

Excerpted from The People of Paper by Salvador Plascencia
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