The People of Paper opens with a little boy bringing his butchered pet cat back to life with delicately folded paper organs and veins made from a college-ruled notebook. It is this care, attention to detail, love, science and heartbreak that marks the rest of the novel, and sits with you long after the book is over. Like a lump in your throat, made of origami.
The story centers around Little Merced, the daughter of a flower picking and perpetual bed-wetting father, who cures the sadness of her mother leaving with the sour tang of limes. The ways in which people deal with heartbreak is a defining personality trait in the book-whether they rage or hurt themselves or take comfort in the song of a bird. The cast of characters ranges from domino playing cholos to celestial bodies, but what the author lacks in focused, traditional character development, he mostly makes up for with first person perspectives, as well as an expertly-crafted intertwining plot and breath-taking prose.
The book itself is a piece of mixed-media art. Pages are sometimes blank, words are blocked over and the text is usually split up into columns based on whose point of view it’s from. The paper itself becomes a character in Plascencia’s descriptions — you almost find yourself rubbing it unconsciously, wondering what it tastes like or would feel like as a pillow or hand.
If you are already a fan of the sorrow and whimsy of Mexican literature, or modern authors like Jonathon Safran Foer, George Saunders, Eggers and others, this book will creep up on you like one of the story’s mechanical tortoises, but will remain lodged in even the most delicate of paper memories.
Clockwise from top left: Girl with a Magic Fruit Papercut Print from Elsita; Leather Heart Necklace from Katie Q; Friends Holding Heart Mandala from Emerlye Arts Kirigami; Mexican-style Tunic from Spun
Clockwise from top left: Tortoise Print from Sharon Montrose; Topographical Anatomical Heart Original Art from Kim Hamblin; Floral Print Pillow Shams from Plum Pretty Sugar; Paper Doll from The Black Apple