Maria Alvarado O'Shaunessey is, in the eyes of her mother and sister, a complete failure. Lucky to be married to a handsome Irish-American soccer coach named Sparky, Maria can't cook, can't keep a clean house, never wears anything but ill-fitted sweat suits and argues with Sparky over soccer strategy. But Maria brushes aside her family's criticisms. She and Sparky love each other and that's all that matters.
Maria's world is shattered when she discovers that Sparky is having an affair with a beautiful, well-groomed, gringa named Roselynn Coles. At this point, Maria's life takes on the melodramatic aspects, the 'shope hea telenovela.' Determined to save her home, Maria finds herself following Sparky to his assignations with Roselynn, breaking into Roselynn's apartment, searching for evidence. And, Maria begins a romance with one of Roselynn's disgruntled ex-lovers, a courtly, mysterious stranger named Kane Chapin.
As Maria develops into a confident, determined woman, aware of her own sexual power, tragedy strikes: Roselynn Coles is murdered and Sparky is charged with the crime. Now Maria must devote all her energies to solving the murder, freeing Sparky from jail, figuring out who Kent Chapin really is, and coaching Sparky's soccer team to victory. But Maria is not alone. She receives help from her favorite saint, Joan of Arc, as well as encouraging apparitions of the great soccer hero, Pele.
BALL AND CHAIN blends the resources of Latin American literature's magic realism with aspects of its popular culture to explore issues of desire, betrayal, machismo and assimilation.
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