A terrible history of suffering and oppression, traced from the Spanish Inquisition to modern-day New Mexico, is exposed through the generations of a single family.
Crypto-Jews, or conversos, hid their faith from the Catholic authorities in an attempt to avoid expulsion, torture, or burning at the stake during the Inquisition that began in Spain in 1492 and later spread to Portugal and Mexico. One such converso is Luis de Torres, whose original name was Joseph Son of Levi, who converts to Catholicism while remaining a Jew in secret. Leaving his wife and two sons, Luis, a translator, finds work sailing on the Santa Maria with Columbus, who is searching for gold and a new route to the Orient but discovers the New World instead. It is Luis’ lineage that underpins Morris’ (The Jazz Palace, 2015, etc.) saga, which develops along parallel narratives: one following Luis’ offspring down the subsequent centuries; the other belonging to teenager Miguel Torres in Entrada de la Luna, New Mexico, in 1992. Miguel, the product of a broken home and a brief stint in juvenile detention, lives in an inbred community with bloodlines that stretch back to Spain. But Miguel’s focus is less on the past, more on the starry skies above; his fascination with astronomy is so great that he has built his own telescope. Exploring the dangerous events and resonant connections—a dish of spiced lamb; a unique clock—linking Luis to Miguel, Morris evokes terror and hope. Her earnest, episodic work deploys a rich palette of detail and color, its breadth only occasionally marred by thinly relevant subplots and a sense of treading water.
At its best, this historical novel achieves affecting, poetic notes, its vignettes illuminating one thread of the Jewish Diaspora.