Child of the Holy Ghost

Robert Laxalt, Author University of Nevada Press $18 (168p) ISBN 978-0-87417-196-9
In his novel The Basque Hotel, Laxalt explored the immigrant experience through the eyes of Peter, a Basque-American boy growing up in Nevada during the Depression. In the elegant second volume of this family trilogy, Peter journeys to his parents' native land to learn more about his mother's secret past. The ``child'' in the title is the narrator's mother, Maitia, whose life has been tainted by her illegitimacy. Laxalt brings a mythopoeic solemnity to the reconstructed experiences of both Maitia, growing up in a tiny Basque village, and Petya, a youth whose family sends him to the American West after he witnesses a murder. Though the characters seem limited--perhaps deliberately--to two dimensions, the Basque countryside and the American desert where Petya finds work as a shepherd spring to life in the writer's direct and unadorned style. The impecunious Basques of the village of Donibanesp ok and their rich sense of tradition are evoked through details: young Petya wears his father's mismatched suit, a hand-me-down from his deceased grandfather, who was buried in his nightshirt because ``the suit would have been wasted beneath the ground in the churchyard.'' A subtle novel, illuminating and worthwhile. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 09/28/1992
Release date: 10/01/1992
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