Two privileged children come of age when they venture into dangerous territory in a small Mexican border town: a striking debut novel. To nine-year-old Andrea Durcal, daughter of a rich and reckless Mexican father and a more sedate American mother, "school was a word; Father was the world"; like her father, Andrea is undeterred by rules or social expectations. She and her cousin Victor both flunk third grade at the Catholic school they attend on the American side of the border--in spite of their fathers' generous donations. The children are supposed to spend the summer of 1947 studying and preparing for their First Communion. Instead, they seem intent on piling up sins before their first confession initiates them into the responsibilities of adult morality. When they see the local shopkeeper letting boys touch her for money, they resolve to steal her stash and give the money to the poor--an adventure that will satisfy their curiosity about what life is like in the shanties by the Rio Grande but which also unleashes a chain of violence. While Andrea with her willfulness and self-centered hunger for life (shattering the stereotype of the devout, passive Latin woman) dismisses most tragedies as insignificant accidents--as when her father, driving drunk, hits and kills a night-watchman--one death finally reaches her conscience and remains to haunt her. Apart from the ill-advised 20-years-later epilogue, an absorbing novel rich in cultural nuance.