Ordinary Seductions

Set against the backdrop of political revolution in Cuba, this novel tells the stories of three generations of visionary women in the del Pino family.
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Explore the Words

definitions & notes only words
  1. primary
    of first rank or importance or value
    The neighborhood committee has voted her little brick-and-cement house by the sea as the primary lookout for Santa Teresa del Mar. From her porch, Celia could spot another Bay of Pigs invasion before it happened.
  2. conjecture
    a hypothesis that has been formed by speculating
    A radio announcer barks fresh conjectures about a possible attack and plays a special recorded message from El Li'der: “Eleven years ago tonight, companeros, you defended our country against American aggressors.
  3. octave
    a musical interval of eight tones
    Celia played the piano once and still exercises her hands, unconsciously stretching them two notes beyond an octave.
  4. frayed
    worn away or tattered along the edges
    She nestles her grandson beneath a frayed blanket on her bed and kisses his eyes closed.
  5. prescience
    the power to foresee the future
    Jorge’s letter arrived that morning, as if his prescience extended even to the irregular postal service between the United States and Cuba.
  6. ardor
    intense feeling of love
    Celia is astonished by the words, by the disquieting ardor of her husband’s last letters.
  7. buoyant
    characterized by liveliness and lightheartedness
    Her Jorge did not resemble the huge, buoyant man on the ocean, the gentleman with silent words she could not understand.
  8. vagary
    an unexpected and inexplicable change in something
    She considers the vagaries of sports, the happenstance of El Li'der, a star pitcher in his youth, narrowly missing a baseball career in America.
  9. incessantly
    without interruption
    They feared that the Frenchman’s restless style might compel her to rashness, but Celia hid her music to La Soiree dans Grenade and played it incessantly while Jorge traveled.
  10. baroque
    relating to an elaborately ornamented style of art and music
    Felicia set aside pails of them but selected only one, a mother-of-pearl shell, a baroque Spanish fan with which later to taunt her suitors.
  11. blanch
    turn pale, as if in fear
    When they returned, it was like an undersea cave, blanched by the ocean.
  12. topography
    the configuration of a surface and its features
    Dried algae stuck to the walls and the sand formed a strange topography on the floors.
  13. paralytic
    a person suffering from paralysis
    toasted corn, pennies, and an aromatic cigar for Saint Lazarus, protector of paralytics; coconut and bitter kola for Obatala, King of the White Cloth; roasted yams, palm wine, and a small sack of salt for Oggun, patron of metals.
  14. dystopia
    state in which the conditions of life are extremely bad
    “Herminia has told us of your dystopia.”
  15. implicit
    suggested though not directly expressed
    Lourdes is pleased with her uniform’s implicit authority, with the severity of her unadorned face and blunt, round nose.
  16. alluvial
    relating to deposits carried by rushing streams
    She imagines her footprints sinking invisibly through the streets and the sidewalks, below the condensed archaeology of the city to underground plains of rich alluvial clay.
  17. redolent
    having a strong pleasant odor
    They multiplied prodigiously, hung abundantly from the trees, crowded the skies until they were redolent of yeast.
  18. gait
    a person's manner of walking
    Now the extra weight did not alter her rhythmical gait, but men’s eyes no longer pursued her curves.
  19. somnambulist
    someone who walks about in their sleep
    Lourdes did not battle her cravings; rather, she submitted to them like a somnambulist to a dream.
  20. fastidious
    giving careful attention to detail
    Her father had been a fastidious man, impeccable, close-shaven, with razor-sharp creases pressed into his trousers.
  21. impeccable
    without fault or error
    Her father had been a fastidious man, impeccable, close-shaven, with razor-sharp creases pressed into his trousers.
  22. vigilance
    alert attentiveness
    For her father, conquering the microbios required unflagging vigilance.
  23. subversive
    a radical supporter of political or social revolution
    “They’re dangerous subversives, red to the bone!”
  24. morbid
    suggesting the horror of death and decay
    Mom thinks they’re morbid.
  25. profligate
    unrestrained by convention or morality
    She said that artists are a bad element, a profligate bunch who shoot heroin.
  26. opaque
    not transmitting or reflecting light or radiant energy
    Soon she was a fragile pile of opaque bones, with yellowed nails and no monthly blood.
  27. embossed
    embellished with a raised pattern created by pressure or embroidery
    They examined her through monocles and magnifying glasses, with metal instruments that embossed her chest and forearms, thighs and forehead with a blue geometry.
  28. pallid
    deficient in color suggesting physical or emotional distress
    They prescribed vitamins and sugar pills and pills to make her sleep, but Celia diminished, ever more pallid, in her bed.
  29. malediction
    the act of calling down a curse that invokes evil
    They dug up the front yard for buried maledictions but found nothing.
  30. serrated
    notched like a saw with teeth pointing toward the apex
    Their driver, a balding man with gently serrated teeth, shakes Celia’s hand with fingers the texture of cork.
  31. pendulous
    hanging loosely or bending downward
    Her mother-in-law, who had a fleshy-tipped nose and a pendulous, manly face, snatched the flower from Celia’s ear and crushed it in her hand.
  32. assuage
    cause to be more favorably inclined
    During the first months of their marriage, he called Celia every night, his gentle voice assuaging her.
  33. desiccated
    lacking vitality or spirit; lifeless
    “You won’t be needing this anymore,” she said, clutching a cream linen suit, which hung better on the wire hanger than on her desiccated frame.
  34. morphology
    the study of the structure of animals and plants
    She would not abandon a daughter to this life, but train her to read the columns of blood and numbers in men’s eyes, to understand the morphology of survival.
  35. tenebrous
    dark and gloomy
    She cannot persuade Felicia to take off her nightgown, to allow light in the tenebrous house.
  36. infiltrate
    pass into or through by filtering or permeating
    “Light infiltrates."
  37. bodega
    small shop selling groceries, especially in a Hispanic area
    She sends the twins to the bodega with an empty can and the last of her monthly coupons.
  38. insomniac
    someone who cannot sleep
    I think of everyone who might be awake with me— insomniacs, thieves, anarchists, women with children who drowned in their baths.
  39. metamorphosis
    striking change in appearance or character or circumstances
    My vision is so accustomed to a shifting horizon, to the metamorphoses of ocean and clouds, that to see such a mass of rock, immovable against the sky, was astonishing.
  40. antiquated
    so extremely old as seeming to belong to an earlier period
    Everything looks antiquated, like the five-and-dime counters in New York.
  41. abhor
    feel hatred or disgust toward
    Lourdes abhors ambiguity.
  42. acumen
    shrewdness shown by keen insight
    The next day, Lourdes works extraconscientiously, determined to prove to herself that her business acumen, at least, is intact.
  43. vestibule
    a large entrance or reception room or area
    She twisted free from his grip and charged him so abruptly that he fell back against the vestibule wall.
  44. chide
    scold or reprimand severely or angrily
    Jorge del Pino chides gently.
  45. paraphernalia
    equipment consisting of miscellaneous articles
    Felicia remembers how when she was in grammar school the paraphernalia of faith had proved more intriguing than its over-wrought lessons.
  46. catacomb
    an underground tunnel with recesses where bodies were buried
    She marveled over how he’d been shot through with arrows and left for dead, how he’d survived his murder only to be beaten to death by the Roman Emperor’s soldiers and buried in the catacombs.
  47. edifice
    a structure that has a roof and walls
    Felicia went with Hugo Villaverde to the Hotel Inglaterra, an ornate wedding cake of an edifice opposite the Parque Central.
  48. errant
    straying from the right course or from accepted standards
    Instead, she scolds the coconuts one by one as if they were errant children.
  49. somnolence
    a very sleepy state
    Sometimes nothing will rouse her from her bed, from a somnolence that coats the very air she breathes.
  50. torrential
    pouring in abundance
    During his presentation, a torrential rainstorm fell and the black sounds of the duende shivered in the air with mystery and anguish and death.
Created on July 1, 2013 (updated August 30, 2018)

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