mark as different
Her Grandmother Clara searched her back and found the tiny star-shaped mark that
distinguishes those born to true happiness.
give qualities or abilities to
This is why they made no effort to prepare the child for life, since the stars had already conspired to
endow her with so many gifts.
"Endow" also means "furnish with a capital fund"--although this definition doesn't fit the example sentence, it emphasizes that Alba was born into a wealthy family, and later, after a series of events both in and out of Esteban's control, she becomes his only heir. The irony that Alba (as the narrator) now realizes is that none of these endowments prevented her from falling into Esteban Garcia's hands.
presenting favorable circumstances
Fortunately, she managed to restrain herself within her mother for a few more hours and to enter the world in her grandparents’ house, on the day, the hour, and in the place most
propitious for her horoscope.
not causing disapproval
The rest of her was tiny and
innocuous as opposed to the other women in her family, who were, almost without exception, splendid.
"Innocuous" also means "not injurious to physical or mental health" or "lacking intent or capacity to injure"--this could be the opposite of the other women in her family, whose splendid beauty makes many men suffer. Alba's physical innocuousness is due to half her genes being from Pedro Tercero Garcia, which unknown to her at first, puts her in the perfect position to help the peasants and the oppressed.
take the place or move into the position of
One Christmas Eve, Clara gave her granddaughter a fabulous present that occasionally
superseded the fascination of the basement: a box filled with jars of paint, brushes, a small ladder, and permission to use the biggest wall in her bedroom whenever she wanted.
of a quantity that can fulfill a need or requirement
Blanca argued that her reading should be monitored because there were certain things that were inappropriate for her age, but her Uncle Jaime felt that people never read what did not interest them and that if it interested them that meant they were sufficiently mature to read it.
the way in which someone or something is composed
The upshot was that in addition to her normal baths and meals, Alba sucked the candies her uncle brought her and hosed herself down whenever she was hot, neither of these two activities having the slightest effect on her healthy
shockingly repellent; inspiring horror
The child, who had a certain inclination for the
macabre, would concentrate according to her uncle’s instructions until she was able to visualize her mother’s death as if it were really happening.
inflict something unpleasant
If she managed to get through an entire week without crying, overcoming all the tests Nicolas
imposed, she won a prize, which almost always consisted of a motorcycle ride at breakneck speed—an unforgettable experience.
a reeling sensation; a feeling that you are about to fall
She would always remember the heavy animals, their slowness, their filthy tails hitting her in the face, the smell of dung, the horns grazing her, and the terrible sensation of emptiness in her stomach, of fantastic
vertigo, of incredible excitement, a mixture of passionate curiosity and terror that she only felt again in a few fleeting moments of her life.
The act of remembering these happy moments is what later saves Alba from the desperate vertigo that was filled only with terror. Although Alba is the main narrator throughout the book (which to her is part memoir, part family history), she refers to herself in the third person because 1) she is describing a younger self that no longer exists; 2) she needs to distance herself in order to heal; 3) the broader perspective helps her tell a better story.
tender, romantic, or nostalgic feeling or emotion
Esteban Trueba, who had always found it difficult to express his emotions and had had no access to tenderness ever since his relationship with Clara had deteriorated, transferred all his finest
sentiments to Alba.
easily broken or damaged or destroyed
At the end of his life, when his ninety years had turned him into a twisted,
fragile tree, Esteban Trueba would recall those moments with his granddaughter as the happiest of his whole existence.
guilt as a confederate in a crime or offense
Alba too remembered the
complicity of those trips to the country holding on to her grandfather's hand, the jaunts behind him in the saddle of his horse, the sunsets in the vast pastures, the long nights beside the living-room fireplace telling ghost stories and drawing pictures.
get on top of; deal with successfully
She was the only one in the family who did not lose her serenity, thanks to her training in
surmounting pain and the fact that her grandmother had often explained to her the circumstances and rituals of death.
marked by extreme care in treatment of details
I took off her nightgown and examined her meticulously for any trace of illness that might have justified her death; when I found none, I realized that she had simply fulfilled her mission in this life and that she had escaped to another dimension where her spirit, finally free of its material burden, would be more at home.
Esteban presents his meticulous examination as if he were a doctor looking for a cause of death, but his action here is almost as much of a violation of Clara's body as Dr. Cuevas's assistant's autopsy and kissing of Rosa's dead body. Although Esteban is her husband and has seen her naked many times, Clara had stopped talking to him and had installed a bolt on her bedroom door.
praise, glorify, or honor
She listened to speeches
extolling virtues her grandmother never had, and when she returned to the house she ran to lock herself in the basement, where she waited for Clara’s spirit to communicate with her, just as Clara had promised.
the act of atoning for sin or wrongdoing
Under his shirt and close to his chest he wore a tiny suede bag that hung from a fine gold chain; in it were his wife’s false teeth, which he treated as a token of good luck and
"Expiation" also means "compensation for a wrong"--although Esteban's nature makes him quicker to demand compensation for a wrong than to admit that he was wrong, the chosen definition is a better fit for the example sentence. The day that Esteban knocked out several of her teeth was the day that Clara decided never to speak to her husband again. Wearing her false teeth both reminds Esteban of what he had done and keeps Clara closer to him in death than she had been in life.
strike with disgust or revulsion
She observed her for a couple of weeks, and when she was certain of the diagnosis she summoned Blanca Trueba to her office and explained as politely as she could that the child was simply not cut out for a British education, and suggested that she try placing her in a school run by Spanish nuns, who might be better at controlling her wild imagination and correcting her
extreme greed for material wealth
He did not behave this way out of
avarice; it was simply that his family no longer interested him.
the property of being seemingly ceaseless
Work on the mausoleum began soon after Clara’s death, but it took almost two years to complete because I kept adding costly new details: tombstones with Gothic lettering in gold, a glass cupola to let the sunlight in, and an ingenious apparatus copied from the Roman fountains that allows a small interior garden, which I planted with roses and camellias, the favorite flowers of the two sisters who had won my heart, to be watered in
We carried our tools down the cypress-lined path, found the del Valle family tomb, and embarked on the
lugubrious task of opening it.
incapable of being retracted
He didn’t try to talk me out of it, because he recognized the tone that creeps into my voice when I’ve made an
change by catalysis or cause to catalyze
I stopped eating in the house, even on the weekends, because without Clara’s
catalyzing presence there was no reason why I should put up with my children’s bickering.
drooping without elasticity
My heart was weighed with sadness and my penis was as
flaccid as a withered, aimless flower between my legs.
a violently fast stream of water or other liquid
I murmured without thinking, and I felt a tear roll down my cheek and then another and another until it became a downpour of grief, a
torrent of sobs, a suffocation of nostalgia and sorrow that Transito Soto had no trouble understanding, for she had long experience with the heartaches of men.
the trait of being rude and impertinent
He also warned her against love and marriage, with the same
insolence with which he insisted that Jaime should find a decent girl and settle down because he was turning into a hopeless bachelor.
a person who is loyal to their allegiance
Alba did not resent his mocking nickname for her; in fact, on more than one occasion she had fantasized about seducing the
"Stalwart" also means "having rugged physical strength; inured to fatigue or hardships"--Alba had fantasized about seducing the professor, so this physical description seems fitting, especially since the professor was described as "indefatigable" as men half his age. But he also has "poor lifeless legs" that need to be supported by crutches. His stalwart support of a Communist revolution is what makes him admirable to male students like Miguel.
having self-possession upset; thrown into confusion
The familiarity of his gesture
disconcerted the girl, who was paralyzed for a second but quickly drew back, trying to struggle free.
something serving to conceal plans
pretext that she had to study late at night, she left the room she had shared with her mother ever since her grandmother died and set up a room on the first floor, facing the garden, so she could let Miguel in through the window and lead him on tiptoe through the sleeping house to their enchanted lair.
a construct distinguishing objects or individuals
She regretted that the splendid women in her family had not bequeathed their
attributes to her, that the only one who had, Rosa the Beautiful, had given her only the algae tones in her hair, which seemed more like a hairdresser’s mistake than anything else.