Love troubles roil the lives of Mexican-Americans in ten superbly grounded stories.
They live on the wrong side of the tracks in a small Valley town near Fresno, Calif. They clean houses, do maintenance work at the paper mill. They suffer under “the fists of daily living,” and their marriages are “as tenuous as spiderwebs.” Several of the men are gay, which makes an awkward fit with their lives as sons and brothers and neighbors. Nobody realizes this more painfully than Sergio in “The Comeuppance of Lupe Rivera.” His gorgeous acquaintance Lupe has a succession of boyfriends, and when her married lover is stabbed by his wife’s brother, the neighbors try to intervene; those same neighbors stay out of sight when Sergio’s ex-boyfriends harass him. In “The Heart Finds Its Own Conclusion,” Sergio’s tenderhearted cousin Cecilia waits for him outside a bus station in Fresno, but she’s unable to save him from the vicious lover he’s fleeing. The complex negotiations between gay and straight society are depicted with particular subtlety in “Ida y Vuelta.” The decent Roberto had been extraordinarily helpful to his undeserving lover Joaquín, so the latter’s family allowed their gratitude to mask their deep distaste for the relationship. Muñoz (Zigzagger, not reviewed) also looks at parent/child interactions. “When You Come into Your Kingdom” is a moving study in thwarted paternal love: Following his son’s suicide, which he had provoked, Santiago acknowledges their shared loneliness. In the title story, Emilio’s father nurses him tenderly after his legs are crushed in a forklift accident. Connie cannot save her 17-year-old son Isidro, mortally wounded by a motorcycle accident in “Lindo y Querido,” but she does come to accept his love for the boy he rode with, now also dead.
Fine storytelling that achieves universality while remaining rooted in a particular time and place.