Courting Laura Providencia - book cover


by Jack Pulaski
ISBN 0-939010-67-4 (paper), $14.95
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ISBN 0-939010-68-2 (cloth), $27.00
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5¼ x 8½
438 pages

Courting Laura Providencia is Jack Pulaski's first novel, and first major work since The St. Veronica Gig Stories (published by Zephyr) in 1986. Fifteen years in the writing, the novel bursts forth with a cast of characters that are sometimes warm and familiar, and at other times violently distorted as in a funhouse mirror. Courting Laura Providencia is a literary devotional; a rumba of this American life; a tale of love and the occasional fall or return to redemption.

From Courting Laura Providencia

Isaac thought, before Laura the world had never been worth the trouble; and her knees, her knees were worth a decade of devotion. His mother was saying, “So I understand your mother is a widow? She works?” Laura said, “Yes.” “In a factory?” “Yes. She takes home piecework; she makes dresses. She made the suit I'm wearing.” “It's very fine,” his mother said, taking up the hem of Laura's skirt in her hand and examining it closely; and, “It's not easy for a woman alone.” Laura nodded. “You met Isaac at City College?” “Yes.” “That's nice, your mother—a widow alone—to work and maintain like that. She must be a wonderful person.” “Yes, she is,” Laura agreed. Isaac thought, this too is a story, and it's almost true. Mrs. Milagros worked in a dress factory, she had made Laura's suit, and she was certainly alone. It could be said that her life resembled the life of a widow.

Sarah heard and identified her husband's footsteps first. They turned and listened as he struggled with the door. Sarah sat, incredulous. She heard him fumble with the keys, scratch at the door like an animal, and rattle the door knob; he shoved and pounded. Sarah rose slowly from her chair, dumbfounded. Abraham, who was always so deft with tools, a skilled master at making things work, could not negotiate the door he had been coming through for thirty years, and he was hammering the door off its hinges. Sarah unlocked the door and pulled it open. Abraham stood there, one fist still raised in the air, grinning, drenched from head to foot; in one hand he held a paper bag from Stern's Pharmacy. His white, dripping hair was plastered to his head. He stepped into the kitchen, smiled, grasped the lapels of his light topcoat, and in the manner of a subway exhibitionist yanked open his coat and an ocean fell out. Sarah ran for a mop.

Isaac had another slivovitz. Laura said, “Please, Izzy, no more.” Isaac kissed the palm of her hand. His mother returned to the kitchen and mopped the floor.

For the next hour Isaac, his mother, and Laura discussed the benefits of education. Abraham had disappeared into the bathroom. Whenever Sarah called her husband, he cried from the bathroom, “Soon! Soon!” Sarah filled up a plate for Laura to nosh. The scent of the brisket filled the kitchen. The light in the window matured toward early evening.

Sarah was the first to recognize the man who had entered the kitchen as her husband. His hair was gleaming black, slicked down to the contour of his skull and reeking of Brilliantine. He was wearing his navy blue pinstriped suit with the wide lapels and the padded, enormous shoulders. In the breast pocket a white handkerchief was folded into a peak. Isaac thought of this as his father George Raft outfit, gangster chic, circa 1935. “please Izzy,” his father said,” do me a favor. Go to the phonograph and put on Xavier Cugat.”

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