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Gods Go Begging Paperback – September 1, 2000

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Editorial Reviews Review

One could argue that the war novel is an essentially timeless genre. Weapons are subject to long and increasingly lethal refinement--but from Homer's day to our own, the fear, fury, remorse, and anguish experienced on the battlefield have hardly changed a whit. Still, the stories told by Vietnam-generation novelists may differ in the telling. A writer like Alfredo Vea draws on a myriad of cultural and literary traditions to evoke the peculiar terrors of Vietnam--while invariably reflecting the outsider status of the soldiers who fought in the conflict. And for both of these reasons, his third novel, Gods Go Begging, is a remarkable work.

Vea begins his story in present-day San Francisco. The protagonist, Jesse Pasadoble, is a former Army sergeant who's now made a name for himself as a criminal defense attorney. Haunted by wartime memories, Pasadoble has found a way to channel his anguish: his impoverished clients remind him of his suffering comrades, and he seeks a compensatory justice for what he and his platoon lost.

Jesse hated death. He did not fear it, but he hated it with all of his heart and soul. A year and a half of incredible fear in the highlands of Vietnam had been transformed into an almost anguished love the living, intact moment, the moment that can never be possessed. Like many of the men who have witnessed the best and worst in themselves, who have been given a glimpse of the end of their lives at a very young age, he had lost the power to be lonely. The power had been replaced by something else: a soul sickness; a hunger for beauty, but only at a distance. Though he could not love his own life and the things within it, Jesse hated death.
His newest client is a 12-year-old boy, a child of the projects who's been charged with the brutal murder of two women. As the case unfolds, the barriers between past and present, America and Vietnam, erode and finally disappear. Meanwhile, Vea expertly marries the magical realism of Gabriel García Márquez to his visceral accounts of battle. Indeed, whether we measure by the breadth of his imagination, the strength of his characters, or the hallucinatory power of his prose, there seems to be no novelistic terrain that Vea can't conquer. A chronicle of defeat and suffering, Gods Go Begging represents a paradoxical victory for the author--and, of course, for the reader. --Ted Leventhal --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Mexican-American author and Vietnam vet V?a's third novel (after La Maravilla) is a gritty, dark, and tightly wrapped tale of mystery, desire, hopelessness and death. A shocking double homicide; the nagging torment of Vietnam War flashbacks; a string of oddball, lowlife and scumbag clients; and his own tequila-clouded life make practicing law a daily ordeal for San Francisco defense attorney Jesse Pasadoble. And now dead soldier comrades and a crazy army chaplain from Jesse's Vietnam past have come back to both haunt and guide him as he struggles with his own demons and despair. Jesse is a cynical lawyer who believes "an honest victim is as rare as an honest defendant." When the two female owners of the Amazon Luncheonette are gunned down on the street, Jesse is tapped to defend the primary suspect, a scared and nearly illiterate local gangbanger called Bisquit Boy. The search leads him first to the culture of San Francisco's housing projects, then to the Vietnamese mob and, in an intensity of painful memories, through his own past. V?a's third-person narration alternates between the present-day plot and Jesse's war experience; chapters flash back to the Asian jungle and the men Jesse fought alongside, among them the mysterious chaplain who holds the key to current events. Jesse's anguish actually heightens his awareness and allows him to finally unravel a Gordian knot of bizarre relationships, which not only brings justice for the victims, but a measure of peace to his own soul as well. V?a composes his plot with great skill, leaving the reader strongly convinced of his story's credibility. (Aug.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Plume (September 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0452281156
  • ISBN-13: 978-0452281158
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #192,354 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Roe P. Wiles on October 11, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Not a Spoiler, just an invitation. I'm not a reviewer, can't ever pretend to be, because 'dispassionate' is not in my vocabulary if I love a book inordinately.
Gods Go Begging by Alfredo Vea will stick in this brain for good, in the best possible way. I almost didn't purchase this novel because of the book jacket-a picture of the back view of a solitary guitar/rifle/gas mask toting soldier in half regalia standing on what looks like an airport runway, a small bag with a Vietnam insignia resting by his boot. I assumed a story predominantly about war in the conventional sense. Could not have been more mistaken.
There are at least four wars being *raged* here among these taut and yet simultaneously lovely pages, all framed within rich language and insightful narrative.
Jesse Pasadoble is a defense attorney in San Francisco waging a war against the stupidity of the typical clients and prejudice in the courtroom. He is joined frequently in the courtroom, in the cafe, and in his daily life by others who share their recollections both of darkly humorous cases and the unacceptable unmentionable dark sides which eventually seal off all human beings from one another.
After a crime of tragedic proportions occurs, Jesse's story and that of the victims and the perpetrators, here and now, plus the unmanageable then on another hill in Vietnam thirty years ago, unfold. What follows comprises an incredible novel of pain and waste, devastation and redemption, caring and investigation, revealed by passionate observation of the lunacy of existence through careful, perfect words.. But, and this is a big *but*, the novel flows like silk through the counterpoints of love, ultimate sadness, and intense meaning.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 30, 1999
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Belongs on the list of the top ten novels of the 90s. To call Gods Go Begging a "Vietnam novel" or a "Chicano novel" would miss the deepest point. It's true that it ranks with The Things They Carried and Paco's Story as the best fiction written by a Vietnam vet; its primary competition for the deepest novel written by a Chicano is Vea's own La Maravilla. But the real peers of Gods Go Begging are the novels of Dostoevsky, Melville, Faulkner, Toni Morrison, Leslie Silko, Thomas Mann...choose your own favorite. Vea takes us from Vietnam to the war zones of urban America, wresting a vision of hope from the bits and pieces of contemporary despair. "Desire without humanity is war." The sentences are brilliant, the vision profound. Read it. Share it.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Denise M. on January 24, 2000
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I first read a review of this novel in the California Lawyer,a magazine distributed to the legal community in California. As a member of the criminal defense bar in California and an African American woman, I found the book to be incredibly authentic. Each criminal defendant, from the "supreme being" to the child molester who received over 100 years in prison, represents a defendant I have represented in the past 11 years. More importantly, I found that the book and all of it's 'themes' flowed together. The book describes the devestation which occurred in the Vietnam War and the "babies" which were killed during the war. It also accurately portrayed the plight of several Vietnam vets once they came back to the United States after fighting for 'their country', particularly Mr. Homeless. I appreciated and respected the fact that the author took the time to develop the true impact of the war on those who survived yet never forgot and will always remember, namely Jesse. I also found the authors ability to compare the war in Vietnam with the war that is being waged and fought every single day in every inner city and every courthouse for 'justice'to be absolutely incredible. As a criminal defense attorney, justice is war! This is probably one of the best books that I have read in a very long time. I related most of all to the war stories which always begin with " I once had a guy......."
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By bill jenkins on February 22, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Where has Alfredo Vea been? Or rather, why haven't I heard about him before? Pick up a copy of GODS GO BEGGING and you'll see that Vea is one of America's unknown literary masters. I just saw Vea at the Inter-American book festival in San Antonio and he was incredible. (So many of the other writers, Sandra Cisneros included, seemed so provincial and limited in comparison.) I immediately bought GODS GO BEGGING and was overwhelmed by the complex and riveting narrative and scope of imagination; the novel is destined to be one of the landmark works of fiction this decade. Spanning the themes of displacement, war, violence, love and race, it reads like a contemporary WAR and PEACE, written by a participant, not an observer. Buy it asap and spread the word.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By France Kassing on November 28, 2001
Format: Hardcover
albeit a harsh and very real one in which we live. Alfredo Véa Jr knows this and his experience, empathy, and compassion contribute a texture to this novel which imparts an indelible memory to the reader. One leaves this novel with a permanently altered insight into what it must be like to be a Vietnam vet. On an organic level, we are left gasping at the ugliness of the war many still fight and at the ultimate beauty of the magic which sometimes graces us.
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