THE WILD STEPS OF HEAVEN by Victor Villaseñor


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 A rollicking sequel to Rain of Gold (1991), which was likened in these pages to a Latin American Roots. Villase§or owes more to the magical realism of Gabriel Garc°a M†rquez, however, than to the thoroughgoing journalism of Alex Haley. The result is a portrait of the author's Mexican forebears that partakes freely of myth, huge symbols, and even the occasional nod to pop-culture touchstones like Treasure of the Sierra Madre. Villase§or revels in shaggy-dog stories, tales of picaresque misadventures, and especially folklore shaped for his own purposes. He opens with a retelling of the famous Nahuatl water serpent myth, with a delightful twist: If the villagers of his ancestral home eat sufficiently hot chilies, the fierce serpent will find expelling her human food so terrible that she will pick another town on which to dine. This saves the life of Villase§or's grandfather. Grandfather has gifts, among them the ability to converse with his broken-down stallion--think of Don Quixote's Rocinante here--and he rules his dusty roost with fierce love and passion. So great are his gifts that he feels compelled to announce them to all who will listen: ``I'm not some skinny little backward Indian-savage who knows how to talk horse to horses,'' he proclaims, ``I can force the entire animal kingdom to its knees in the name of God-given Christianity!'' Horse tamer, patriarch, and defier of all authority, Grandfather teaches his children well, and his descendants are fond of quoting the master. ``Remember what our grandfather always tells us,'' one says fondly, ``that a smart man is never wild or stupid, but has all the patience of the lion, and the lion and the jaguar aren't in the business of getting hurt or taking chances.'' That patience, Villase§or seems to suggest, is the clue to the Mexican people's survival, and his affectionate, tongue-in-cheek look into the past is a pleasure in every respect. (Author tour)

Pub Date: March 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-385-31566-X
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Delacorte
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 1995


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