A posthumously published coming-of-age story in which an old man recounts meeting his first love in New Mexico Territory in 1895.
From the moment 14-year-old Beth Delilah steps from the stagecoach into the small town of Ruidoso, 13-year-old Elijah is enraptured by her pale skin, blonde hair and blue eyes (traits that are fetishized throughout the story). The two become fast friends, but Beth Delilah and Señora Roja, a local woman believed to be a witch, are at odds. Through flashbacks, readers learn that Elijah was seduced by Señora Roja into an ongoing relationship. Though the affair is over, the past makes things awkward for Elijah, who is now intimate with Beth Delilah. When the two friends find Señora Roja torturing her niece, Rosa, they resolve to help but are too late to save her from a gruesome and bloody death—an event that traumatizes them both and leads to Beth Delilah’s disappearance. The details of this remembered time and place are rendered with love, though from a distance. Even Elijah’s “horrible” dreams of Señora Roja feel fixed in amber rather than immediately horrifying.
Elegant prose is a highlight in a book whose memoirlike tone and heavy nostalgia make it feel like an offering for adults, not teens. (Fiction. 17 & up)