DYING UNFINISHED, a novel by Maria Espinosa

Wings Press, San Antonio,Texas, 2009


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This is the story of Eleanor’s troubled relationship with her daughter, Rosa. At the core of their tension is the illicit affair she has had with her daughter’s husband, Antonio. The affair itself is the surface manifestation of deeper turbulence which has always lurked beneath the surface. The novel is narrated through both women’s voices, shifting in time and place through New York, the Midwest, Paris, and California.

It is a sequel to Longing, although it also precedes it in time.

“A lyrical novel that takes place over three generations and that reminds us of the arduousness, and even desolation, of love relationships…. The fury at the center of the narrative is embodied in Eleanor Bernstein whose relationships with her husband Aaron, her daughter Rosa and her lovers – both friends and strangers–are equal sources of elation and agony. Espinosa knows how to chronicle amatory ambivalence.. A fierce novel that explores the topography of passion and grace.”

– Kirkus Reviews

“Dying Unfinished is more than a fascinating portrait of creative souls alienated in a materialistic world; it is a brilliant discourse in the search for the language of silence and otherness with the human soul.” – Rosa Martha Villarreal —Tertulia Magazine

Excerpt from Dying Unfinished:

Dad’s manner was eager, almost servile. Yet underneath ran a current of something malign. His face could be like a mask, with an uncanny quality of seeming to change altogether during unguarded moments. Who knew what he was thinking beneath the surface? Like a tiger he would shield his claws until my guard was down.

I used to think he was deliberately cruel. Now I see that if he had allowed himself to see what was truly going on inside himself, his structures would have cracked. They were as fragile as glass. His feelings flowed like treacherous undertows in which we found ourselves submerged.

In his fifties, he was still handsome. His hazel eyes would shift nervously, never looking directly into mine. Loud voice with a mid-western twang. . . As an artist he possessed integrity. He would work as if in a trance, craving the perfect form of a metallic object in space, the perfect shape of a woman’s haunch, inherence to an inner vision. It was this core, struggling for expression in a world he perceived as hostile, that aroused my sympathy.

. . . One day we all drove to Stinson Beach. Dad and you were in front, while Antonio, the baby, and I squeezed into the back seat of your rental car. I held Isabel close, as if she were a lifejacket. We drove along a winding road edged on one side with cliffs. Field grass waved in the wind, amidst purple patches of heather. Far below lay the sea.

“Does it rain in summer?” asked Dad.


“I say, Antonio, est-qu’il ple�t en l’�t� ici?

“Presque jamais avant Octobre.”

“The heather makes me think of Scotland,” you murmured.

“Did it come from Scotland?”

“Monsieur, it comes from the moon.”

I giggled, but no one else laughed.

Tension increased as we drove. Your yearning. Dad’s jealousy, barely contained. I lay my head against Antonio’s shoulder, but he stiffened when you turned around and invisibly touched his wrist. I began to sob. Dad drove faster. I could not hold back the tears.

“A carelessly dropped cigarette could cause a terrible fire.”


He swerved around a car, narrowly missing an oncoming van on the curve.

“Aaron, be careful!” you cried.

He slowed down a bit.

Stop!” shouted Antonio. He put his arm around me. “Your daughter is crying.” I hugged the baby closer.

But Dad kept on driving as the sun sank lower in the sky, and you kept your gaze straight ahead.