Chávez's new novel is the sprawling tale of Comezón, a New Mexico border town. The book is anchored by the aging master of ceremonies of the town's yearly fiesta, Arnulfo Olivárez, as he regretfully looks back on his life.
Longing, the author’s translation of “comezón,” is at the center of this book and all its characters. Longing for the local priest, El Padre Manolito (Juliana Olivárez); longing for the crippled Juliana, the woman he cannot have (El Padre Manolito); longing for the family she knows is her right (Juliana's sister, Lucinda Olivárez); longing for peace from his obsession with the illegals he helped deport to Mexico (Rey Suárez the bar owner); and longing for her husband’s attention (Emilia Olivárez). Everyone longs for love and for the body they desire—whether that body be their own full and healthy again or the body of a lover. “What was he doing here…besides longing for love?” asks El Padre Manolito. Indeed, whose longings will be satisfied and whose will go unrequited becomes the central drama of the novel. And when Emilia suffers a near-fatal stroke, it sets off a chain of events that forces the characters, especially her husband, Arnulfo, to reconsider what they truly desire. Told in the close third person, the narrative shifts among the points of view of all the characters. While the rotating perspective does create some beautiful moments and reveal some delicious ironies, at times the story slows when information is repeated from multiple perspectives without adding further depth. But if you have a penchant for winding narratives in which the drama of the story takes place within the Proustian world of memory, this is the book for you.
A haunting book from a novelist (Loving Pedro Infant, 2001, etc.) who inspires us to appreciate what we have before it is gone.