An extremely likable first novel that seems destined for high visibility: EscandÆ’n has prepared both English and Spanish-language versions and has written the script for a film version recently screened at Cannes. The story's chief attraction is its heroine Esperanza Diaz, a beautiful young Mexican widow who is granted a vision (in the window of her oven) of her ""favorite saint"" Judas Tadeo, The saint informs Esperanza that her 12-year-old daughter Blanca, who had died following a routine tonsillectomy and been buried in a closed coffin, is not really dead. The warmhearted, suggestible, unconquerably optimistic Esperanza (whose name, after all, means hope) concludes that hospital authorities have deceived her, that perhaps the doctor who declared Blanca dead had ""abducted her for child prostitution."" Following an abortive attempt to dig up Blanca's grave, Esperanza leaves her village (Tlacotalpan), her best friend Soledad (also widowed), and her sympathetic parish priest, Father Salvador (who is sorely tempted by his parishioner's charms); she works as a maid in a nearby brothel, then moves on to Tijuana and the ""Pink Palace,"" where she narrowly avoids enlistment into prostitution herself(she has a positive genius for coitus interruptus) and becomes the favorite of an undemanding judge from San Diego. Yet another trip, to Los Angeles, brings Esperanza into contact with a ""muralist""-procurer (and inventor of the ""Sex-o-scope""), and with a professional wrestler who garbs himself as an angel and, in fact, becomes her angel. EscandÆ’n brings her beguiling tale to a satisfying end when Esperanza learns to accept her loss and move on. Only an excess of redundancy (most glaring in Esperanza's lavish confessions and letters home to the flummoxed Father Salvador) prevents EscandÆ’n's story from being first-rate. It is, nevertheless, smoothly and enjoyably readable throughout: a more than commendable debut.