The Five Acts of Diego Leon

Alex Espinoza, Author
Alex Espinoza. Random, $26 (320p) ISBN 978-1-4000-6540-0
Reviewed on: 11/19/2012
Release date: 03/19/2013
Open Ebook - 1 pages - 978-1-299-26608-7
Ebook - 199 pages - 978-0-8129-8463-7
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This lackluster historical from Espinoza (Still Water Saints) has neither inspired writing nor sophisticated characterizations in its unoriginal smalltown-boy-goes-to-Hollywood plot. The prologue suggests something more involved; as young Mexican Diego Leon witnesses his father leave town in 1911, he “could not imagine the many faces he would be called to wear—a soldier, a thief, a lover, a villain, a king, a husband, a father.” But the titular five acts do not reflect a renaissance career; instead, inspired by a neighbor to practice orating, when Leon comes of age, he ditches his fiancée for the movie business. His struggle to become an actor couldn’t be more clichéd—he takes menial jobs, betrays a friend to get an audition—and most readers will struggle to care how things end up. Four chapters in, Espinoza gives a glimpse of what might have been, with an exciting description of the turmoil in 1926 Mexico, when President Elias Calles enforced a constitutional provision “stripping the church of much of its power,” triggering a wave of savage violence. A novel describing how the Mexicans who didn’t abandon their country to pursue selfish goals weathered the turbulence would have been much more interesting than this one. Agent: Elyse Cheney. (Mar.)
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