WANDERING TIME by Luis Alberto Urrea


The Western Notebooks
Email this review


A disjointed, gushing collection of musings on and descriptions of a yearlong road trip cum walking tour of Rocky Mountain National Park. After his difficult marriage came apart, Urrea (By the Lake of Sleeping Children, 1996, etc.) embarked on a trip along the flanks of the Rockies in an attempt to bring new openness to his heart and live a more soulful life. The journal he kept during his wanderings says surprisingly little about the broken marriage that provoked them. Instead, it records Urrea’s thoughts on the sights he sees—broken cars, playful butterflies—and the people he meets as he drives and walks his way through the parks and cities of Nevada, Wyoming, Utah, and Montana. Urrea has an endearing talent for noticing the small things in nature (mouse tracks, slow and fast ants, baby snakes), and his enthusiasm for getting to know people from all walks of life (bishops, mechanics, homeboys, neo-Nazis, nature-lovers, evangelists, hippies, rednecks, Mexican laborers) is a refreshing departure from the studied cynicism of many writers today. But much of Urrea’s writing is marred by a vagueness that can approach absurdity (“Anyone who has ever engaged an aspen in any meaningful dialogue at all recognizes its optimistic and generous nature almost immediately”) and his constant references to other writers (Abbey, Kerouac, Bukowski, Ackerman, and Basho, to name a few) and to his own process of writing a journal fill this book like so much white noise. A disappointing exercise, Urrea’s journals lack the narrative focus and emotional power to keep pulling the reader through his countless tangents.

Pub Date: Feb. 5th, 1999
ISBN: 0-8165-1866-1
Page count: 129pp
Publisher: Univ. of Arizona
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 1998

Kirkus Interview
Luis Alberto Urrea
April 21, 2015

Examining the borders between one nation and another, between one person and another, Luis Alberto Urrea’s latest story collection, The Water Museum, reveals his mastery of the short form. This collection includes the Edgar-award winning "Amapola" and his now-classic "Bid Farewell to Her Many Horses," which had the honor of being chosen for NPR's "Selected Shorts" not once but twice. Urrea has also recently published a poetry collection, Tijuana Book of the Dead, mixing lyricism and colloquial voices, mysticism and the daily grind. We talk to Urrea about both of his new books this week on Kirkus TV. View video >


FictionTHE HOUSE OF BROKEN ANGELS by Luis Alberto Urrea
by Luis Alberto Urrea
FictionTHE WATER MUSEUM by Luis Alberto Urrea
by Luis Alberto Urrea
FictionQUEEN OF AMERICA by Luis Alberto Urrea
by Luis Alberto Urrea