Victor Villasenor, Author . HarperCollins/Rayo $26 (528p) ISBN 978-0-06-621077-3

Fans of Villaseñor's admirable family epic, Rain of Gold (Arte Publico, 1991) will be hard-pressed to wade through this massive, workmanlike sequel. The book's humorous opening—at the 50th-anniversary renewal of Villaseñor's parents' wedding vows, the "bride" refuses to say "obey" as her sister catcalls from the front pew about the groom's unreliability—gives way to a series of simplistic feminist diatribes followed by a nasty family squabble. The author then tracks his mother and father, Lupe and Salvador, through the passionate and turbulent first years of their marriage, always shadowed by Salvador's bootlegging and deceit, always redeemed by Lupe's fiery strength, her bottom-line common sense and a hearty helping of sex. Lupe follows Salvador around Mexico on his criminal and other exploits before putting her foot down; the book leaves them at the start of a presumably lawful, relatively calm life in California. Though the author espouses feminist views, his female characters are one-dimensional, axiom-spouting cultural stereotypes: suffering, saintly and bitter. Where the earlier book offered an enjoyable, unreconstructed representation of early 20th-century rural Mexican culture, here that culture has been infected by a feel-good mysticism that even the California setting doesn't excuse. The story meanders through linguistic anachronisms (no man in 1929 would have said "full Latina hips"), mixed metaphors, aimless digressions, countless exclamation marks and warmed-over New Age imagery like "The Father Sun was now gone, and the Mother Moon was coming up, and the Child Earth was cooling." The author's central question about his parents' relationship—"Was it love?"—brings a neat if superficial unity to the narrative. 8 pages b&w photos not seen by PW. (Sept. 1)

Reviewed on: 09/03/2001
Release date: 09/01/2001
Analog Audio Cassette - 978-0-694-52661-1
Hardcover - 512 pages - 978-0-06-621297-5
Paperback - 544 pages - 978-0-06-093567-2
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Peanut Press/Palm Reader - 544 pages - 978-0-06-050781-7
Ebook - 528 pages - 978-0-06-223871-9
Ebook - 544 pages - 978-0-06-175392-3
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