‘A Family Like Any Other’ by Carlos Fuentes

A Family Like Any Other by Carlos Fuentes, 2006

The magic trick:

Segmenting the story by character, mirroring the way they struggle to communicate

We’re off to Mexico this week. We start with favorite son, Carlos Fuentes. This is very much a story about 21st century Mexico – its moral dilemmas and its uneasy transition into the digital revolution.

Mostly, it’s a story about family. Fuentes separates the story into several sections, each one about a different member of the Pagán family. They live under the same roof, but they don’t communicate very well at all. The daughter has isolated herself from the world. The mother suffers through a regret-plagued trip down memory lane in her mind every night. The son and the father have so much in common it is killing them. But they don’t help each other find a way out. They stay in their lanes, only occasionally intersecting. The segmented storytelling, then, is a perfect platform for this family. And that’s quite a trick on Fuente’s part. 

The selection:

THE FATHER. It wasn’t that the drinks in the cantina went to his head. It was that for the first time, he felt like a friend to his son. They were buddies. Maybe it wasn’t that they hadn’t had the chance to chat before. It was that they might not have the chance to talk frankly again. It was that the time had come to prepare the balance sheet of one’s life, one’s history, the time one had lived. We are children of an ill-starred revolution, Pastor had said to his son, who looked at him with uncertainty and suspicion and a kind of distant forgetfulness close to indifference. What revolution? What was his father talking about? The technological revolution? Pastor continues. He thinks we did a lot of things badly because we lost our illusions. The country slipped from our hands, Abel. And so the ties that bind us were broken. In the long run, it’s a question of surviving, that’s all.

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