Inseparable friends in a New Mexico barrio grow up to love the same woman and share a suicide pact.
Ethnicities, cultures, passions and beliefs clash portentously in Sumner’s second novel (The School of Beauty and Charm, 2001, etc.), which drags epic, tragic themes into its portrait of a mixed community in Taos. Mister Romero, grandson of Ignacia, the local curandera (healer/witch/herbalist) with Jicarilla Apache and Tiwa origins, is the blood brother of Latino Tomás Mondragón, son of an abusive, neglectful mother. At school, both fall under the spell of Anglo Raquel O’Brien from South Carolina, but it’s Tomás who first becomes her boyfriend. Tomás, however, has violence in him and the relationship doesn’t run smoothly, eventually allowing Mister Romero to have his chance with the girl he loved from first sight, although by then he will have blood on his hands. Sumner’s jumbled chronology and mixture of narrative perspectives further muddles an impressionistic, busily populated story. The conclusion, similarly diffuse, offers natural justice to one character and apparently easy redemption to another.
An ambitiously complicated broth of content with surprisingly little flavor.