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The Man Who Could Move Clouds: A Memoir

Review

The Man Who Could Move Clouds: A Memoir

Award-winning author Ingrid Rojas Contreras follows up her debut novel, FRUIT OF THE DRUNKEN TREE, with her first memoir, THE MAN WHO COULD MOVE CLOUDS. Searching with her mother for the remains of her grandfather, she finds lost aspects of herself, illuminating hidden talents and opening further paths to mysticism and memory.

"Those who read this book for the conceptions and comforts hidden beyond bare facts will find themselves soaring into imagination with Rojas Contreras and hoping for further visualizations from this gifted artist."

With Latin flavor infusing her phrasing and magic in her heritage, Rojas Contreras recalls her childhood in the conflicted, politically scarred homeland of Colombia, which she fled as a young woman. In the forefront of her memories are impressionistic portraits of family members: her dictatorial father Papi, sorceress mother Mami, and grandfather Nono, the man of the book’s title, who practiced ancient herbal medicine along with his deeper knowledge of humanity, psyche and myth. That dynamic grouping gave him the title “curandero,” roughly translated as healer, seer and necromancer. After a blow to the head, Mami took on some of Nono’s healing capacities as a fortune teller who believed that her customers sought a good story rather than hard truths. So she led them by gentle trickery from one to the other.

These secrets were shared with the child from an early age, along with harsh litanies that seeped into everyday life: to be Brown was bad, violence lurked around every corner, and, as a girl, she must kowtow to her brothers, like it or not. She did not like it, once cutting her hair to prove that she was a boy and their equal. This same strength of character will emerge when she, too, is the victim of an accident that leaves her with memory loss and a growing comprehension that her connection with Nono must be explored. With Mami, she sets out to return to Colombia and disinter the remains of her mystical forebear. Revelations will assail her at every step as she draws the reader into her viewpoints and visions.

Rojas Contreras, who now resides in the US, is a teacher as well as a practitioner of writing arts. THE MAN WHO COULD MOVE CLOUDS veers from chronology to speculation, from the realities of constant political upheaval to poignant candle-lit moments with Mami in the attic, listening to her mother’s sage advice about how to guide people to solutions by weaving complex, magical fables for them to follow. Her path, one senses, is still multilayered. She concludes that, beyond “the person who escapes,” the “mind that forgets itself,” the culture that is thought to be erased,” lies --- everything: “Everything survives.”

Those who read this book for the conceptions and comforts hidden beyond bare facts will find themselves soaring into imagination with Rojas Contreras and hoping for further visualizations from this gifted artist.

Reviewed by Barbara Bamberger Scott on July 15, 2022

The Man Who Could Move Clouds: A Memoir
by Ingrid Rojas Contreras

  • Publication Date: July 12, 2022
  • Genres: Memoir, Nonfiction
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday
  • ISBN-10: 0385546661
  • ISBN-13: 9780385546669