cover image The Water Museum

The Water Museum

Luis Alberto Urrea. Little, Brown, $25 (272p) ISBN 978-0-316-33437-2

Urrea’s (The Hummingbird’s Daughter) collection of darkly funny stories explores racial politics and amorphous cultural lines, set primarily in the Southwest. In the title story, a small town is in the throes of a drought so prolonged that a water museum is created to teach the town’s children about the long-lost resource. During the museum’s reenactment of rain, one student begs, “Stop it, Miss! Oh, stop the rain!” In the Edgar Award–winning story “Amapola,” a white high school boy falls in love with his best friend’s Mexican-American cousin, Amapola. Her very conservative and protective family puts the lover through the ringer to prove his love for Amapola. In “The National City Reparation Society,” Junior and Chango take a canoe fishing and are stopped by border patrolmen. Junior is urged to leave the scene, while Chango is held, sinisterly, behind. Urrea has a wonderful eye for details and captures each story’s context with wonderfully sharp observations: when Junior walks through his old hometown, he sees “the flat old cat carcass they used for home plate.” These stories are vibrant, tender, and invoke a strong sense of place. (Apr.)