The Tequila Worm

Viola Canales, Author
Viola Canales, Author . Random/Lamb $15.95 (199p) ISBN 978-0-385-74674-8
Reviewed on: 11/21/2005
Release date: 08/01/2005
Prebound-Sewn - 978-0-7569-7275-2
Library Binding - 199 pages - 978-0-385-90905-1
Paperback - 199 pages - 978-0-375-84089-0
Open Ebook - 127 pages - 978-0-307-43401-2
Open Ebook - 87 pages - 978-1-299-17307-1
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This tender first novel suffers somewhat from an awkward structure. Narrator Sofia, whose life story hews closely to the author's own Texas barrio-to–Harvard Law trajectory, begins by relating quotidian childhood experiences as vignettes. Three successive chapters go from first communion to dyeing Easter cascarones to trick-or-treating. A quarter of the way into the novel, she is suddenly 14 and has been offered a scholarship to a boarding school in Austin, Tex., 350 miles from her home in McAllen. The loosely connected anecdotes then shift to a conventional narrative thread about convincing her parents to let her attend. What will keep readers enthralled are the details of Sofia's home life—from the sobremesa, a "sacred time" after dinner in which the family reconnects through conversation, to the worm of the title, a critter soaked in mescal that acts as a "cure for homesickness" when eaten. Readers may well feel unprepared for both a death at novel's end and Sofia's out-of-the-blue neighborhood activism—but the characters are real and engaging, the vignettes funny and enlightening, and Sofia's lack of cynicism is refreshing. Ages 12-up. (Sept.)

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