FROM THIS WICKED PATCH OF DUST by Sergio Troncoso
Best of 2012
Kirkus Star

FROM THIS WICKED PATCH OF DUST

KIRKUS REVIEW

Troncoso tells the story of a Mexican-American family as they come to terms with their cultural heritage over a span of 40 years.

The new novel from Troncoso (Crossing Borders, 2011, etc.) follows Cuauhtémoc and Pilar Martinez and their four children in the border town of Ysleta, Texas. As the children grow up, they feel the pull of their parents’ love for Mexico and the opposing force of their own identities in America. Cuauhtémoc is able to retire early from working as a draftsman and travels with his wife, living off the income from the apartments owned by the family. Pilar, a Catholic mother who is stern but instills strong values in her children, is a hardworking housewife who sold Avon to help with the bills. However, she worries that she hasn’t done enough to fill her children with her beliefs: “Pilar was overcome with incredible sadness. Why had her children abandoned the church? Why had they become like grains of sand scattered throughout the desert?” The oldest, Julia, becomes Aliyah, converting to Islam and moving to Tehran with her husband and three children. Francisco is overweight and attending community college but works tirelessly at the apartments, playing the role of the good son. Marcos becomes a teacher and a member of the Army Reserve, marrying a white woman and living near his family in Ysleta. Ismael, the youngest, goes to Harvard and marries a Jewish woman, escaping the confines of his home in Texas only to meet with the labors of life as a man torn between his duties as a husband and his aspirations as a writer. Troncoso seamlessly intertwines the struggles the grown children face with their parents’ desire to help them become independent and proud Mexican-Americans. The prose is powerful in an unassuming way, making for a captivating read. The author carefully paces the book, with each chapter plotting an era in the family’s lives, ultimately joining the family’s collective narrative of religion and family obligation with the current events of the time. Troncoso is clearly adept at his craft, telling a story filled with rich language and the realities of family life and closing with a son reassuring his mother and literature reassuring them both.

With its skillful pairing of conflict over religious and familial obligations with the backdrop of a Mexican-American family’s love for one another, Troncoso’s novel is an engaging literary achievement.

 

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2011
ISBN: 978-0816530045
Page count: 229pp
Publisher: The University of Arizona Press
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 2012




BEST INDIE BOOKS OF 2012: THE COMPLETE LIST:

Indie SPOONFUL by Chris Mendius
by Chris Mendius
Indie THE NUDE by Margaret Sisu
by Margaret Sisu
Indie THE WHIPPING CLUB by Deborah Henry
by Deborah Henry
Indie FROM THIS WICKED PATCH OF DUST by Sergio Troncoso
by Sergio Troncoso

SIMILAR BOOKS SUGGESTED BY OUR CRITICS:

NonfictionTHE LIFE AND TIMES OF MEXICO by Earl Shorris
by Earl Shorris
FictionTHE LAST TORTILLA by Sergio Troncoso
by Sergio Troncoso
NonfictionPLACES LEFT UNFINISHED AT THE TIME OF CREATION by John Phillip Santos
by John Phillip Santos