This War Called Love is the second collection of stories by American Book Award-winner Alejandro Murguia (Southern Front). Young Reymundo's idyllic life in 1950s Mexico City is interrupted by one tragedy after another in the richly detailed "Boy on a Wooden Horse." Although the eight subsequent stories don't quite measure up to this one, there are a few gems. In "Ofrendas," Reymundo is older, living in San Francisco's Mission District, mourning a lost friend on the Day of the Dead. The darkly humorous "Barrio Lotto," in which a bus driver and his psychic wife struggle to stay afloat financially, features an ending worthy of Roald Dahl.
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Equal parts funny and sad, Murguia's short stories depict, with tender and sometimes unflinching detail, love, life, and growing up Hispanic. The heartbreaking "Boy on a Wooden Horse" takes place in the year before an earthquake nearly leveled Mexico City and follows a young boy whose childhood races past him as he faces one tragedy after another. In the brief but powerful story "The Flower Seller," a child walks the streets of California, selling roses out of a bucket in restaurants while his mother repairs clothes and his sisters sew beads on dresses for retail stores--all of them working for pennies. Although the best of the collection are on the darker side, Murguia also shines in the more lighthearted stories; for instance, the hilarious dance maestro of "A Lesson in Meringue" teaches a class the forbidden dance, claiming it washes away problems and is the cheapest workout in town. Free of stereotypes and always honest, this collection presents Latino-Chicano life at full throttle. Carlos Orellana
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