RIVER OF TRAPS by William & Alex Harris deBuys
Kirkus Star


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A lyrical and moving evocation of life in a northern New Mexico village, as writer deBuys and photographer Harris produce a seamless blending of text and pictures that celebrates man and nature. The central figure here is Jacobo Romero, an aged Hispanic farmer whom deBuys and Harris came to know as a neighbor and friend. It was Romero who instructed the men in such matters as the proper methods of irrigating their land and the best times for haying. A superb storyteller, Romero also brought the history of the area and its inhabitants to life for the pair. A particularly moving chapter concerns the efforts of the authors to save the life of Romero's old horse when the animal falls into a rain-swollen irrigation ditch; deBuys tells the story with an understated drama that adds to the poignancy of the situation. Equally involving is a description of a flood that ravages the countryside one spring But it is the portrait of Jacobo Romero that dominates the book. The old man's stubbornness and generosity, humor and cantankerousness, are captured in telling detail. When, in the final pages, Romero dies and Harris delivers the graveside eulogy, the reader feels a very real sense of loss. And nearly as engrossing are cameo portraits of other residents of the valley: Romero's wife, Liza, a woman as indomitable as her husband; Onesimo, a blind neighbor who lives in a room without electricity because ""he would not pay for light he could not see."" Harris' 65 duotone photographs, straightforward and unassuming, perfectly complement deBuys' text, capturing in light and dark the feel of the land and the resoluteness of its inhabitants. A superb testament to the human spirit.

Pub Date: Sept. 6th, 1990
Publisher: Univ. of New Mexico Press