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In this posthumous compilation of stories, Tufts (1907—91) presents somewhat naive though likable vignettes of Mexican-American life in pre-WW II Los Angeles. Extending from the exploits of ten-year-old Pedro Gonzalez, the stories meander in and out of the lives of his neighbors on Pico Street. From the solemn JosÇ Gonzalez, Pedro’s father, and his roguish Uncle Luis, to the fiery Carmelita, who keeps a dagger in her garter belt, and the pedantic Father Lomita, love, loss, and family bonds amid poverty are considered in these 11 tales, most previously published, beginning in 1946, in the Saturday Evening Post. “The Fortunes of Pedro” opens the collection, introducing Tufts’s innocent protagonist, who wants to buy his father an expensive fishing rod like the kind the gringos use off Santa Monica Pier. Pedro, who lives with his father and uncle in a one-room shack, collects bottles on the beach, sifts through sand for loose change, and almost has enough for the prized birthday present when Uncle Luis steals the money to buy booze. And so Pedro learns a lesson that’s repeated throughout here: The more one possesses, the more one becomes burdened by those possessions. By contrast, “The Merry-Go-Round” is a romantic tale of a man who works magic with his riches to bring happiness to all. Retired Fernando G¢mez, having escaped the poverty of Pico Street, now dreams of buying the dilapidated merry-go-round at the beach. The restoration of the beautiful old carousel, and Fernando’s wily plan to unite his stubborn daughter Rosa with the charming Sam Hondo, develops into a sweet scheme to operate the merry-go-round for free. Socializing at the barbershop, scavenging at the dump, making a fortune with a shoeshine cart—Tufts’s stories offer an amiable if by now old-fashioned simplicity, often with an 0.Henry twist. A charming assemblage of characters, in an inevitably dated and unsurprising collection.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1998
ISBN: 1-880284-27-8
Page count: 206pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 1998