An American woman drifts into sexual victimization and revolutionary politics in Mexico--in a muddled first novel with occasional moments of power. In 1968--a time of political turmoil in Mexico City--Abilene Painter has been the mistress of Antonio Velez for five years. She's the passive ""gringa"" of the title, a Texan with a disspiriting past, always searching for (and then trying to escape from) men who treat her badly. Antonio, a rich rancher and famous bullfighter, is worse than most: macho, brutal, insulting and manipulative (and no doubt responsible for the Hemingway-esque prose of the opening section). Abilene loves him and considers herself his possession, while also allowing his underlings to have sex with her--although she knows they do it out of resentment towards Tonio rather than desire for her. At the novel's start, she leaves the ranch and goes to Mexico City for an abortion and dermabrasion; then falls in with a group of Mexican intellectuals and political protesters; is a witness to the infamous massacre of demonstrators at Tlateloco, and at last is able to take res-sponsibility for herself and leave Tonio. An occasionally gripping portrait of a woman without a life of her own, whose identity is connected to sex, humiliation, and danger; but the prose here sometimes borders on parody, the high seriousness of the political themes is often portentous, and Abilene is a tedious guide.