Blood Relations

Carlos Montemayor, Author, Alfonso Gonzalez, Translator, Dale Carter, Translator
Carlos Montemayor, Author, Alfonso Gonzalez, Translator, Dale Carter, Translator Plover Press $17.95 (112p) ISBN 978-0-917635-16-8
Reviewed on: 05/29/1995
Release date: 06/01/1995
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When Refugio's older brother, Antonio, a laborer in the mines of northern Mexico, dies of silicosis in 1955, his funeral triggers childhood remembrances of Refugio's grandfather's death in 1931 from the same disease. Mexican novelist Montemayor's novel, steeped in memory, brilliantly excoriates the labor practices that relegate every generation of miners to hunger, poverty and a drought of the spirit. Antonio protects Refugio from working in the mines, but he can't shield him from the agony and passion of personal loss stemming from the ``sickness of our lives... handed down from our fathers' times.'' Lean, present-tense prose exposes multiple layers of pain that permeate the lives of Refugio's grandfather, father and brother, while narrator Refugio's Proustean memory touches on sensory remembrances of eating mesquite pods, hunting pigeons, smelling the ``odiferous cloud'' of the railroad station. The nonlinear narrative structure is interrupted by intercalary chapters that amalgamate Mexican Catholicism and Native Indian traditions with the Roman Catholic practices of extreme unction, the rosary and the blessing of the sepulchre. For Refugio, the catechism of the mines leads to an epiphanic recognition of the ``secret of Mexico'': that ``death precedes life.'' Electric, vibrant, highly charged emotions reveal Montemayor's uniquely observed drama of death and redemption, the life-affirming lessons of which linger in the mind like the recollected pungency of an altar's incense. (June)
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