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Book Review

Love Stories: An Analysis of Eileen R. Tabios’
Silk Egg

Silk Eggs
SILK EGG: Collected Novels
by Eileen R. Tabios
 (Shearsman Books, Exeter, U.K., 2011)

“If you can love until it hurts,
there can be no more hurt,
only more love.”
                           Daphne Rae

A timid young Asian lady, daughter of an absent mother and an unknown father, meets a gentleman in a café. He escorts her home. They make love; they fall in love. A formerly engaged surviving mother of one, forsaken by her fiancé, schemes malicious intent on an unsuspecting victim. Two renegades of their cultures find consolation in a Vietnamese restaurant. A hopeful’s dreams are shattered by a man’s deception. She faces the future without compunction or indignation, finding solace in another. A new chapter begins.  A young martyr returns to her lover of yesterday. She has been blind to his insincerity and emotional disparity. A prisoner of the past is haunted by the Christmas season with memories of a man long since gone. She alters her perspective on a holiday that serves only as a painful reminder. A naïve, hopeless romantic is about to embark on a relationship destined for demise from the onset. A young, faithful chatelaine, compassionate toward her unavailable lord, perpetuates a toxic involvement.

Author and poet Eileen R. Tabios cleverly juxtaposes poetry and prose in Silk Egg: Collected Novels, creating an anthology of succinct works of fiction portraying the loved, the forsaken, the emotionally absent, the abused and the resolute. Each chapter is one in a versified series of short stories, featuring loving couples, abusive, neglectful or deceiving partners and the wakes of their entanglements. Deception is thematically comparable in “Pewter” and “Stubborn Entry,” both narratives depicting deluded characters of masculine gender. “Same Ol’ Argument” features a woman, though not revealed as forsaken, who reunites with her former partner, only to ascertain his emotional disorder and abuse, reminiscent of a young maiden’s self-incarceration with an emotionally detached older keeper in “Novel Chatelaine.” Not all tales are devoid of a happy ending, however, as illustrated in “Silk Egg,” “Rarefied,” “Christmas” and “Cambodia,” wherein four heroines of ill-fated familial or romantic backgrounds face their futures with hope and optimism.

Misery begets misery. The hurt, hurt as illustrated in “Pewter,” whereby a surviving mother of one, abandoned by her fiancé, intends malice on the unsuspecting: “Fool: one should never want obedience to the blind,” the “faux wedding band” synonymous to a wedding that would never come to fruition (25-27). “Stubborn Entry” likewise portrays a credulous innocent haplessly entangled in a charlatan’s malice and deception, symbolized by a “beautiful murderer” “w[earing] [a] rattlesnake skin as a bracelet,” figuratively denoting malicious intent (52). Both involve couples of diverse ethnicities, the latter a man of African origin and a female predator of undisclosed descent, and “Pewter,” depictive of two mavericks of distinct nationalities: “That day, Saudi Arabia cooperated with Israel against Washington” (21). The author does not disclose the past of the woman in the former.

Through her inventive narrative concision and figurative eloquence, Eileen R. Tabios’ Silk Egg captures the quintessence of the miracle of love, the tragic misfortune of abuse and neglect...and the enduring, resilient and determined nature of the human spirit.

A “lighthouse” provides the setting for “Same Ol’ Argument,” ironically symbolic of a toxic yet comfortable and familiar relationship between the protagonist and the abusive villain for whom she returns “home,” a literary illustration of the malignant and unhealthy relationships in which we find ourselves (91). “Novel Chatelaine” similarly depicts the hopeless perpetual plight of a young damsel who endures the neglect of her malevolent liege, despite urgent pleas by subjective witnesses, testimony to her circumstances, imploring her to abscond: “You should replace those vines” (123). The master’s neglect of his chateau is allegoric of his physical and emotional absence toward his mistress.

The holiday season is a painful reminder for a despondent whose counterpart has long since forsaken her in “Christmas.” Her initial disillusionment, however, shifts to an attitude of optimism when an epiphanous quintessential perspective of the holiday replaces the former, beleaguered with anguishing recollections of a relationship from the yesteryears: “God is who I shout for” (106). Another fictional short with a promising resolution, “Rarefied,” features a sanguine survivor of a misleading relationship: “We are discussing rose bushes, are we not?” Rather than sacrificing happiness for pride or resentment, however, she faces the future with optimism, absent of regret, finding love in the arms of another man (41-47).

A Vietnamese restaurant in San Francisco serves as a refuge for two lovers of dichotomous cultures in “Cambodia,” the benign, open-minded patrons accepting them for who they are, the love that they hold for each other and their unorthodoxy: “Cheerful strangers caped them with cheerful words….” Despite the ever-present probability of familial and societal reproval—“The landmines still exist”—they parent a child and intend a life together (32-36). The writer’s dictional preference is metaphorically significant, Vietnam, a topic of considerable debate between conservative and liberal factions in the 1960s and ‘70s, the implied era during which this storyline unfolds.

A young, demure lady of the Pacific sits alone at a tavern in “Silk Egg.” She is an unfortunate victim of circumstance, a hapless child of a once ravaged, war-torn land, the daughter of an indeterminate father and an emotionally removed mother. Her tearful dirge is silenced only by her extreme timidity, hyperbolically likened to “purple mirabilis jalapa folding petals into a frozen fist.” A sobering man nursing a tumbler of whiskey takes notice of the woman. He accompanies her home. Her bedroom assumes the design of a “silk egg,” foreshadowing and setting the stage for an impending conception. They fall in love, “forget[ting] to dream about empty chairs,” providentially concluding this narrative with a favorable, happily-ever-after storybook ending (11-17).

Love has its price, whether it is an ultimate and painful abandonment, as illustrated in “Pewter” and “Stubborn Entry,” a perpetual, ill-fated, neglectful or abusive infinite entanglement, as depicted in “Same Ol’ Argument” and “Novel Chatelaine,” or societal reproof, addressed in “Cambodia,” yet it may also prove promising, medicinal and transformational, as the reader discovers in “Silk Egg,” “Rarefied,” “Cambodia” and “Christmas.” Through her inventive narrative concision and figurative eloquence, Eileen R. Tabios’ Silk Egg captures the quintessence of the miracle of love, the tragic misfortune of abuse and neglect, the painful disappointment of love loss and the enduring, resilient and determined nature of the human spirit.

© Nicholas T. Spatafora

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