THE TOE BONE AND THE TOOTH

Martin Prechtel, Author . HarperCollins U.K./Thorsons $22.95 (384p) ISBN 978-0-00-714267-5

Following up on Secrets of the Talking Jaguar and Long Life, Honey in the Heart, Prechtel closes his epic autobiographical trilogy by mixing Mayan myths with a first-person account of his efforts to escape from Guatemala with his family intact during the 1980s civil war that tore the country apart. The book opens with an extended rendering of a myth in which corn is introduced to Central America after a tumultuous romance between a human named Raggedy Boy and a goddess known as the Water-Skirted Beauty. Prechtel's own narrative is far less clear-cut—he begins by exploring the history of Santiago Atitlan, the village that is the setting for the myth, then delves into the political and religious repression he witnesses as a village resident. While this digressive style allows for a variety of perspectives to float within the narrative simultaneously, passages of elaborate, florid prose render the material uneven. While Prechtel's love for Guatemala and the people of Central America remains obvious throughout, most compelling is the suspense-filled section at book's end, where government troops arrive and threaten both Prechtel and his family before they can make their way to Los Angeles and then Prechtel's native New Mexico. (Feb.)

Forecast:This is the weakest book of the trilogy, but a 17-city author tour should generate sales for all three complex, multilayered works.

Reviewed on: 02/03/2003
Release date: 02/01/2003
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 368 pages - 978-0-00-714268-2
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