A poor Mexican man crosses the border and becomes a star in 1930s Hollywood in this superficial second novel that follows Still Water Saints (2007).
The boy is dancing at a religious festival. The priest has taught him the steps, but the kid improvises; the crowd loves it, clapping and cheering. In his tiny Mexican village, 11-year-old Diego León experiences the joy of the performer before his life changes drastically. It’s 1917. Six years earlier, his peasant father rode off to fight in Mexico’s revolution. He returned a broken man. Unable to raise his son, his wife dead, he sends him to live with his in-laws in Morelia. Diego’s grandparents, prosperous bourgeois, erase the boy’s indigenous ancestry and invent a European father for him. Diego goes along with the program, works in his grandfather’s office and consents to an arranged marriage, though attracted to men. But on the eve of the wedding, he bolts. His train north is set on fire by religious fanatics. Here and elsewhere, Espinoza fails to feed the scanty historical details smoothly into his narrative. Impulsively, Diego heads to Los Angeles (he’s seen silent movies already). He finds a cheap boardinghouse and works as a busboy. Charlie, a genial fellow lodger also trying to break into movies, takes him to Central Casting. Diego betrays him. Now, anything can happen.
A book weakened by a lack of plausible character development.