De Haro (Intermezzo of the Longing Hearts, 2006, etc.) divides Alejandro Romero’s epic journey into three parts—the “Golden Years” of Hollywood, the battlefields of World War II in Europe and the pursuit of normalcy in postwar Los Angeles.
The lights, cameras and action of a thriving movie scene are strange and unfamiliar to Alejandro, who fled with his family from Mexico to California to escape political persecution. His craftsman uncle, Jose Maria, introduces Alejandro to this then-silent medium at a young age. As a 10-year-old stuntman, Alejandro plays “waifs, runaways, juveniles, thieves, and even young Native Americans.” After earning his high school certificate, Alejandro returns to Jose Maria’s waiting arms; his uncle shares his home, his day job, his friends and even his expanding marijuana business. Alejandro learns remarkably fast, which is just one of the reasons he’s selected for special missions during his tour of duty in Europe. Somewhat annoyingly, Alejandro excels at absolutely everything—he’s a skilled handyman, he’s intelligent, an outstanding dancer, humble, loyal, he speaks four languages, and to top it all off, he has movie-star good looks. The one constant in this occasionally arduous saga is that women everywhere seem to fall in love with Alejandro, yet he’s unable (or unwilling) to sustain a long-term relationship. Given stiff dialogue and questionable motivations, the majority of de Haro’s characters fall flat, leaving readers little to care about. Additionally, the lengthy linear storytelling may be too much for less dedicated readers. Perhaps in attempting to bring the Mexican-American immigrant/Hollywood/wartime experience to life, de Haro tackles a bit too much.
Part romance, part battle, part triumph, this American experience contains fascinating tidbits for history and movie buffs, but the volume of detail tends to obscure the big picture.