From Publishers Weekly
Viaña's second book to be translated into English (after story collection American Dreams) is a kaleidoscopic fever-dream that drags long-suffering illegal immigrant Dante Celestino from Oregon to Las Vegas and back a few times as he searches for his runaway daughter. The day of Dante's daughter's quinceañera, she runs away with her low rider-driving gangster boyfriend. After hearing they may have fled to Las Vegas, Celestino repeatedly attempts journeys to find her, and passes the time between telling Virgilio (a donkey), among other things, the story of his and his deceased wife's long-ago border crossings. Celestino is undaunted by losing everything and starting over again, just as Viaña is unafraid of periodically chucking the narrative and starting again almost from scratch. The doubling-back of Dante's journey allows Viaña to set up straw men of his ideological bogeymen-uninformed liberal educators, touchy-feely types, unreconstructed South American fascists-and ridicule them. Though Viaña's subject is certainly worthy of a sprawling story, this epic meanders in its long middle section and skimps on the denouement and resolution. The topics are of interest, but the telling goes over the top.
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Dante Celestino, Gonzalez Viana's hapless hero, becomes a man on a quixotic mission when his daughter Emmita leaves her quinceanera on the back of her boyfriend's motorcycle and flees their small Oregon town, heading for Las Vegas. Widower Dante sets off to retrieve his daughter, accompanied by his wise donkey, Virgilio, and guided by his late wife Beatriz's voice. He faces a daunting series of obstacles, but he is unable to ask for police assistance due to his illegal status. As Dante tries to find the city of vice and casinos, he pours out his memories to Virgilio, telling him of all his happy years with Beatriz. Over the course of their two-year journey, the pair encounters an odd cast of characters, including radio hosts with otherworldly powers and various travelers who ignite Dante's memories of his peaceful life in Mexico. With Dante and Beatriz as his mouthpieces, Gonzalez Viana explores themes of immigration, cultural assimilation, and the fleeting nature of life and the long evenings of death throughout Dante's magical, mystical odyssey. Donovan, Deborah