THIRTEEN SENSES by Victor Villaseñor


A Memoir
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Coherence takes a backseat to exuberant, purplish prose in this sprawling saga of a family’s life in Mexico and the US, sequel to Rain of Gold (1991).

Choosing to explain those eponymous senses only in an afterword, Villaseñor writes, “I deliberately didn’t list them anywhere in the text, because if I had, then people wouldn’t have experienced the book.” We’re enslaved, he continues, by the first five senses, “the perfect trap to keep us going around in circles inside of our brain computer” instead of the apparently preferable “heart and soul computers,” sites of senses six through nine. (Ten through thirteen seem to reside in outer space, along with the author’s reasoning.) There’s plenty of heart and soul but perhaps too little brain in Villaseñor’s overstuffed, undisciplined narrative, which centers on the alternately wacky, dreamy, and difficult lives of his parents, grandparents, and cousins, a melting-pot clan of Indians and Europeans who combined to form “a United Force from two different WORLDS!” Many of the countless anecdotes are little more than shaggy-dog stories, although others carry more weight: the saga of his uncle Domingo, who finally found a long-sought gold mine after many misadventures, then proceeded to drink the proceeds; the end-of-days realization by Villaseñor’s mother that she had never told her husband she loved him. The author’s passion and talent for storytelling are evident throughout, as are his radiant good humor and devotion to the wisdom of black-clad crones who pop up from time to time in these pages to bliss out over the joys of eating avocado-slathered corn tortillas and watching “silky-thin clouds out over the sea where the Father Sun, the Right Eye of the Almighty, was setting.”

A little of the incessant be-here-now grooviness can go a long way, though readers inclined to New Age sensibilities will find the ever-enthusiastic Villaseñor a pleasant and engaging companion.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-06-621077-1
Page count: 592pp
Publisher: Rayo/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 2001


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