Love Is Starving for Itself


237 pages
ISBN 1-55128-015-9
DDC C813'.54





Reviewed by Julie Rak

Julie Rak is a Ph.D. candidate in English at McMaster University.


Patrick Roscoe’s third collection of short stories examines how love
touches a small Spanish-speaking village and the three generations of
the Lopez family’s women who live there. Roscoe’s idea that love is
pitiless, but the source of myth and dreams, is central in a series of
magic-realist stories reminiscent of Garcнa Mаrquez or Nino Ricci. The
stories are less about love than about love’s absence, as in the story
“Doсa Lupita’s Youngest Daughter,” when the entire town falls in
love with a girl in a white dress who dances each night, then
disappears, until a snowfall ends the spell. Here, Roscoe writes of the
loss of love as “aching absence, a gap felt as familiar fact before it
has become entirely real,” a space between the ideal, the real, and
the imagined in a community, the place where stories form.

At their best, these stories invoke love’s presence and absence with
a supernatural tone in which familiar elements surface, made into myth.
The story “China,” for instance, features an angry one-armed doll
who spurns Rosario Lopez’s love and doggedly tries to dig to China,
until she is buried in the earth and calls to Rosario, refusing to die
or to love, until Rosario takes the doll’s mission on herself. The
other-worldly qualities of life in the town are found in the story
“The Seventh Experiment of Seсora Lopez,” in which Rosario falls
down a well. The well becomes a town altar where people sacrifice all
they love, including themselves.

Despite such engaging, creepy moments, however, the cool narrative
style of the collection holds the reader at a distance. The
magic-realist quality of its design means that the inner lives of the
characters are always subordinate to the plots of the stories, which
sometimes collapse under their own thematic weight. But for anyone who
enjoys a look at love that refuses the sentimentality of romance without
sacrificing a kind of belief in the romantic pull of stories, Love Is
Starving for Itself will startle, then charm and delight.


Roscoe, Patrick., “Love Is Starving for Itself,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 14, 2024,