Gabriela and the Widow is about a 14-year-old girl who has suffered the loss of family as her entire village was destroyed. She migrates north (to El Norte) where she meets a dying 92-year old woman, the widow, La Viuda. However, the path to El Norte is laced with pain, hardship, abuse and death.
After fleeing from their village, Gabriela has to bury her mother, who doesn’t survive the hardship of war and was very ill to begin with. Now living in a village without anyone to protect her, Gabriela has to give herself as a servant to a woman called La Patrona. Soon Gabriela learns of the evil plans of La Patrona and is reminded she is truly alone. She flees from the abusive fate La Patrona plans with a man she meets on the street, Nando.
Working for Nando isn’t all bad, except for the sexual abuse and expectation of producing his sons. Gabriela finds herself selling articles made of toads, the same toads that stared at her along the path her mother died and was buried on. The bags carry an awful smell and awful reminder of what life used to be and now has become. The toad purses cause her to get sick. It is here where she meets a woman named Mignonne and her companion who take Gabriela to El Norte and to a better life.
This novel is filled with layered meanings and symbolism. You are entertained and Jack Remick’s words grab your attention. Each character in the story feels real, even the ones we only meet for a short time. You can hear, see, and feel them moving about as Gabriela slowly finds her way, both in life and internally. You will feel the deepness of this young girl and her desire to find a place to call home. A safe place she can finally put down roots and build a future.
The widow also has deepness to her. She draws you in and as this happens, you feel her arms encircling you, comforting you just as a grandmother would. However, you can feel through this wisdom a sadness. Maybe it is her desire to pass down her life, strength, and memories… or maybe it is a slight weakness knowing her life is coming to the end.
Gabriela and the Widow is graphic and at times explicit language is used in its description of what life is for these characters. Jack Remick’s words forces the reader to keep turning the pages. The plot is complex and filled with sadness, regret, and a level of mystery and intrigue.