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A Vivid Landscape of Sensual Experiences

Guest Post by Chuck Augello

The stories in Death, Desire, and Other Destinations, a new collection by Tara Isabel Zambrano, depict a vivid landscape of sensual experiences ranging from a widowed mother’s kitchen to the surface of the moon. A desire for escape is a recurrent theme. In “Lunar Love,” a couple flies to the moon to exchange their vows. “We have been excited about doing something that everyone we know does these days since they find nothing exciting about the earth anymore,” the narrator says, and it’s a telling line. Daily life, with its expectations and social conventions, no longer excites. Zambrano’s characters seek their pleasures elsewhere, often in the body.

One of the strongest stories is “Up and Up,” in which a daughter interrupts her widowed mother during an intimate moment with another man. While the daughter is shaken, the mother is nonchalant and unapologetic. “It’s a blessing to be alive with no one to answer to,” the mother says, dismissing her daughter’s questions about the neighbors and the memory of the recently departed husband/father. The mother’s new lover, Santosh, soon reappears holding three mangoes, a perfect detail, the succulent fruit signaling the sensual tour-de-force to come. Santosh stands behind the narrator, and a scene that could have been uncomfortable or even creepy becomes a passionate delight, Zambrano surprising the reader with what happens between the characters, her language lush and evocative, the daughter’s “pores opening onto wonder, previous half-baked climaxes and affairs slipping out, my body poured into a new cast.” It’s a moment charged with desire, sexy and emotionally revealing.

The stories in Death, Desire, and Other Destinations are imaginative and unique, Zambrano’s collection the perfect destination for readers looking to escape the doldrums of quarantine and sheltering in place.

Death, Desire, and Other Destinations by Tara Isabel Zambrano. Okay Donkey, September 2020.

Reviewer bio: Chuck Augello is the author of the novel The Revolving Heart and the story collection The Inexplicable Grey Space We Call Love.

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