A daringly intricate and haunting novel, first published in Mexico in 1995, that introduces American readers to a gifted writer who seems poised to inherit the postmodernist mantle of Carlos Fuentes. The story consists of three intertwined narratives, arranged by “David Toscana” from manuscripts left behind by his missing friend Froylan Gomez. Gomez, a would-be writer declared dead following a massive hurricane, has, instead of dying, actually absconded, perhaps with another woman (as his wife Patricia, who has asked “Toscana” to edit Froylan’s papers, has surmised). Gradually, the reader sorts out the terse episodes (contained in dozens of brief chapters) that comprise, first, the “biography” Froylan writes at the request of an elderly Juan Capistran, who claims to be the writer’s great-grandfather; second, the parallel history of the mountainside village of Tula, whose hopeful accession to progress and modernity depends upon Tula’s becoming a major stop on the railroad line connecting Mexico City with Veracruz; and, finally, the story of Froylan’s own obsession with a woman he impulsively identifies with the central figure of Juan Capistran’s increasingly strange story. It’s the tale of a bastard son effectively exiled by his domineering grandmother after his mother’s death; out of place everywhere he attempts to belong; condemned to be tortured by his love for Carmen, the woman he can never win. Toscana adds further ironic levels of meaning with juxtaposed explorations of Froylan’s pursuit of his own “Carmen” and especially with episodic glimpses of Tula’s “progress” (where characters from Juan Capistran’s tale assume increasing importance), a progress that’s eventually concluded as irresolutely as are the lives of Toscana’s characters—with the building of a railway station and sets of incoming and outgoing tracks, though the trains will forever bypass Tula. A tale, though enigmatic and elusive, that slowly, surely discloses its several secrets while drawing the reader deeply into the interrelations of a number of vividly dramatized lives. Memorable work from an impressive new writer.