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Spirits of the Ordinary: A Tale of Casas Grandes Paperback – May 21, 1998
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
Set in the late 19th century, the book essentially is the story of one man-born a Jew, married into a large Catholic family, so estranged from both he lives essentially alone prospecting for gold in the mountains of old Mexico-who eventually becomes the equivalent of a shaman to and for the indiginious Indian communities in Northern Mexico/Southern New Mexico.
Alcala hits the righ tone by introducing her mysticim indirectly and in a low key--the requisite angels, spirits and revelations are present, but are a complement to rather than the focus of the basic story.
The book exhibits flaws common to the debut novel--sometimes disjointed, major characters a bit too out of focus, minor characters given too much play, etc., but the genuiness of the story, the aura of mysticims established, the overll quality of the writing and the extraordinary bredth of the core characters more than compensate for these weaknesses.
Overall, this was one of the best novels I'e read this year and I highly recommend it.
On its dust jacket, the novel is described in terms of other authors of epic and mystic Hispanic fiction (Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Jose Luis Borges), which is why I chose to read it.
Alcala does a beautiful job of giving the novel a sense of place in both Old Mexico and New Mexico. Her characters are engaging and complex. Her writing style is, indeed, reminiscent of more established (indeed legendary) Hispanic authors. Perhaps this is why I was so disappointed in the novel itself. For the first two-thirds or so, the novel progresses wonderfully and draws you into the lives of these remarkable characters. It's in the last third that, for me, it all falls apart. The end of the novel wraps up too quickly compared to the pace established at the beginning with many of the characters' stories being finished unsatisfactorily, or not at all (some characters simply are not mentioned again.
I have just read that this is the first novel of a trilogy, so perhaps the next two will pick up the threads of some of the missing characters' lives. Unfortunately, when I initially read the book I don't remember any indication that it was one of three so I was expecting it to stand on its own and it didn't quite do that.Read more ›
Now to postpone the rest of my life so I can read the next in the trilogy (Flower in the Skull) more quickly
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I loved this book. It is rich in biblical themes and Mexican history, with touches of magical realism and Cabala before it was trendy (this book was published in 1996 originally). Read morePublished on March 8, 2010 by Alex Nichols, author of Shadow Rock
Clearly the best of the three books in the series, Spirits of the Ordinary courageously introduces the reader of Mexican-American literature to the hidden Jewish component to the... Read morePublished on September 4, 2009 by D. Rachlin