From Publishers Weekly
Chaos and fate are hopelessly intertwined in this exuberant second novel from Lemus (Trace Elements of Random Tea Parties
). Frank Cruz—born as a girl named Francisca, but living and identifying as a man—is a loner from Southern California. His father, diagnosed with terminal cancer, offers Frank tragic stories of the Cruz family, a key to a safe deposit box and an arresting 1924 photograph of a beautiful woman named Nahui Olin, a bohemian Mexican artist/poet from an aristocratic background. Frank (who narrates) learns that Nahui had many lovers, lived transgressively and was endlessly wooed. When his father dies, Frank sets off for New York and lands in the East Village, where he meets and falls in love with Nathalie; she eerily reminds him of Nahui, whose face and history have now obsessed him. Their relationship is solid until the horror of September 11 throws them into chaos and sadness that tests their relationship, and Frank's self-image. With her blunt prose, Lemus doesn't waste a word in this smart, never sentimental identity novel. (May)
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When her dying father calls, ending years of silence, Felicia has become Frank, breasts tightly bound beneath layers of shirts. Caring for him emotionally frees the twentysomething to leave California for New York, which answers a nostalgic love for a romanticized past symbolized for Frank by an Edward Weston photo of a stunning woman ("serious dynamite"), a Bohemian poet self-named Nahui Olin, who once publicly lusted for Frank's father's mother. Frank meets a present-day embodiment of Nahui in the tempestuous Nathalie, who promptly claims the right side of our smitten protagonist's bed as hers. If Nat's unpredictability and drama are endearing, her occasional disappearances when intimacy overwhelms her are not. But so it goes for seven generally happy years. At 30, Frank opens a shop selling collectibles, she wants a baby, and she has achieved regular if not quite normal domesticity. Lemus' powerfully written chronicle of love, in which gender is irrelevant, and the siren call of the past threatens the present, deserves more than a niche audience. Whitney ScottCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved