Sharply realized fiction located in a vibrant community.


A novella and seven stories that shine a light—sometimes harsh and glaring—on love and family relationships in the Hispanic community of El Paso.

The title gives its name to the novella and introduces us to the kinds of complexity that will shape all the pieces in the collection. Moníca Montoya, the narrator, finds herself pregnant, but not with her husband Sal’s child. The father, ironically, is a man named Regie, whose son has been bullying Moníca and Sal’s son, Gabe. Moníca goes to Ana Jurado, an herb specialist whose tea is supposed to create a “natural” abortion, but she remains skeptical that the brew will work. And if this isn’t enough on her plate, she’s also dealing with what to do with the ashes of her father, Vicente, a seductive wastrel who somehow balanced having two families, one in Mexico and one in El Paso. Moníca uses her half sister, Bernie Gomez, as a confidante during these personal trials, which include Moníca’s continued sexual involvement with Regie as well as with a younger man. And then Sal is suspended from work for sexual harassment—or for what he terms “flirting.” Although all the plot elements border on soap opera—or perhaps telenovela—Granados has an ear for crisp dialogue and particularly for engaging opening sentences (“There is no way to look sexy carrying a fifty-quart pot of tamales” or “Every time Jim Burkett caressed Anita Guerra’s arm she had to suppress her desire to flinch”). And while the stories can be dark, the characters remain fundamentally defiant and hopeful despite distressing odds.

Sharply realized fiction located in a vibrant community.

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-8263-5792-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Univ. of New Mexico

Review Posted Online: Dec. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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It's being called a novel, but it is more a hybrid: short-stories/essays/confessions about the Vietnam War—the subject that O'Brien reasonably comes back to with every book. Some of these stories/memoirs are very good in their starkness and factualness: the title piece, about what a foot soldier actually has on him (weights included) at any given time, lends a palpability that makes the emotional freight (fear, horror, guilt) correspond superbly. Maybe the most moving piece here is "On The Rainy River," about a draftee's ambivalence about going, and how he decided to go: "I would go to war—I would kill and maybe die—because I was embarrassed not to." But so much else is so structurally coy that real effects are muted and disadvantaged: O'Brien is writing a book more about earnestness than about war, and the peekaboos of this isn't really me but of course it truly is serve no true purpose. They make this an annoyingly arty book, hiding more than not behind Hemingwayesque time-signatures and puerile repetitions about war (and memory and everything else, for that matter) being hell and heaven both. A disappointment.

Pub Date: March 28, 1990

ISBN: 0618706410

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1990

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What's most worthy in this hefty, three-part volume of still more Hemingway is that it contains (in its first section) all the stories that appeared together in the 1938 (and now out of print) The Fifth Column and the First Forty-Nine Stories. After this, however, the pieces themselves and the grounds for their inclusion become more shaky. The second section includes stories that have been previously published but that haven't appeared in collections—including two segments (from 1934 and 1936) that later found their way into To Have and Have Not (1937) and the "story-within-a-story" that appeared in the recent The garden of Eden. Part three—frequently of more interest for Flemingway-voyeurs than for its self-evident merits—consists of previously unpublished work, including a lengthy outtake ("The Strange Country") from Islands in the Stream (1970), and two poor-to-middling Michigan stories (actually pieces, again, from an unfinished novel). Moments of interest, but luckiest are those who still have their copies of The First Forty-Nine.

Pub Date: Dec. 2, 1987

ISBN: 0684843323

Page Count: 666

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1987

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