I WANT TO BUY A VOWEL by John Welter

I WANT TO BUY A VOWEL

A Novel of Illegal Alienation
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Comic novel set in a small town in Texas from the author of Night of the Avenging Blowfish (1994) and Begin to Exit Here (1992). The title--inspired by the game show Wheel of Fortune--is the one English phrase that Alfredo Santayana, an illegal immigrant from Guatemala, knows. He's hiding in an abandoned house just outside of Waxahachie, Texas, and, as the story begins, the innocent Alfredo is about to become a suspect in an investigation of satanic practices. Little Eva Galt, a minister's kid, spies on him and then befriends him. Meanwhile, another preacher's kid, Kenlow, begins drawing pentagrams around the countryside and leaving whatever fresh meat he can find--beef liver, Vienna sausage--as evidence of ritual sacrifice. The sheriff would just as soon laugh the matter off, but then Eva finds a skeleton, suggesting what may be a real case of satanic sacrifice. The local media get hold of it. An evangelical preacher embraces the issue. Someone claims to have seen the Virgin Mary reflected on the surface of a post office stamp machine; the stamp machine is stolen. And, in still another skewed expression of religious fervor, a painter reproduces drawings from the Sistine Chapel on the ceiling of the local food mart. It truly seems as though some kind of wacky conspiracy is at work, but then Eva spots Kenlow at his mischief, clearing up much of the mystery. Alfredo even becomes a hero, and, green card in hand, gets a job scooping up smashed armadillos from the highway. Welter goes for laughs, and often gets them--his kids here, in particular, are charming, as they speculate upon the utility of prayer or troll for catfish at the local sewage lagoon. On the other hand, Welter uses such a broad brush that he's never truly satirical, and his quintessential small town is both too idealized and dumbed-down to be believable. A Tom Bodett wannabe.

Pub Date: Oct. 4th, 1996
ISBN: 1-56512-118-X
Page count: 322pp
Publisher: Algonquin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1996




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