A good story, Victor Villaseñor writes in the opening pages of this sequel to Rain of Gold
, can save your life.
Consider, he continues in this memorable portrait of Latino family life, the case of his grandparents, who fled from civil-war-torn Mexico to the United States in 1910. As they traveled north, his father told Villaseñor, "Cannons were blasting. People were screaming and dying. The creeks ran red with blood." But Villaseñor's grandmother's stories about "the stars, the moon, the she-fox" kept the children's minds off the terrors around them, guiding them to their new homeland and shaping family history. That history provides the grist for Villaseñor's exuberantly spinning mill, yielding a sprawling narrative shot through with touches of magical realism and homespun philosophy, and tinged occasionally with regret--as when, for instance, Villaseñor's mother confesses, "I miss your father so much ... but I'm the one who could never bring myself to tell him that I loved him."
But sorrow is rare and humor plentiful as Villaseñor affectionately recounts his relatives' travails and improbable dreams, some of which, like a grandfather's quest for gold in a hidden Mexican canyon, come true. As he writes, Villaseñor underscores the importance of tradition, faith, forgiveness, and, yes, good stories in making life livable, and this good story will please many readers. --Gregory McNamee
From Publishers Weekly
Fans of Villasenor's admirable family epic, Rain of Gold (Arte Publico, 1991) will be hard-pressed to wade through this massive, workmanlike sequel. The book's humorous opening at the 50th-anniversary renewal of Villasenor's parents' wedding vows, the "bride" refuses to say "obey" as her sister catcalls from the front pew about the groom's unreliability gives way to a series of simplistic feminist diatribes followed by a nasty family squabble. The author then tracks his mother and father, Lupe and Salvador, through the passionate and turbulent first years of their marriage, always shadowed by Salvador's bootlegging and deceit, always redeemed by Lupe's fiery strength, her bottom-line common sense and a hearty helping of sex. Lupe follows Salvador around Mexico on his criminal and other exploits before putting her foot down; the book leaves them at the start of a presumably lawful, relatively calm life in California. Though the author espouses feminist views, his female characters are one-dimensional, axiom-spouting cultural stereotypes: suffering, saintly and bitter. Where the earlier book offered an enjoyable, unreconstructed representation of early 20th-century rural Mexican culture, here that culture has been infected by a feel-good mysticism that even the California setting doesn't excuse. The story meanders through linguistic anachronisms (no man in 1929 would have said "full Latina hips"), mixed metaphors, aimless digressions, countless exclamation marks and warmed-over New Age imagery like "The Father Sun was now gone, and the Mother Moon was coming up, and the Child Earth was cooling." The author's central question about his parents' relationship "Was it love?" brings a neat if superficial unity to the narrative. 8 pages b&w photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.