By Carmen de Monteflores
Singing Softly/Cantando Bajito centers around the life of Pilar as told by her granddaughter Meli. The young Pilar's liaison with the son of a monied and proud family cuts her off from her own family, leaves her socially adrift, alone, and, finally, affects her relationship with her oldest friend.
It is in the act of narration, moving in soft rhythms and slowly revealed stories, that Meli reclaims her relationship with her grandmother and mother. Reaching out with her imagination, she binds together the three generations of women burdened by secrets and frees herself to come back to the Puerto Rico she has fled.
This is a novel redolent with the smells of tropical flowers, the taste of mangoes, coconuts and rum, the touch of earth and sea, the sounds of birds, the voices of [Puerto Rican] women…Marta, who gave birth to Pilar, who gave birth to Luisa, who gave birth to Meli, the narrator/listener. Tying the generations together, lifting the narrative to the plane of magic realism, and connecting it for a moment to Isabel Allende's The House of the Spirits is Seña Alba…midwife, healer, conscience, guardian and seer—a witch and folk hero…A novel worth reading.
—New Directions for Women
A moving and powerful novel that explores how the forces of colonialism, misogyny and racism emerge in the lives of a family affected by this history. The language of the narrative is rich and evocative and the characters are both real and surreal in the intensity of imagination. An important book.