Killing Time with Strangers

W. S. Penn, Author University of Arizona Press $23.95 (282p) ISBN 978-0-8165-2052-7
Magical realism is an excellent way to tell love stories in this disenchanted age, and Penn's new novel delves into that realm using a shape-shifting spirit, a weyekin, to describe how Palimony Blue Larue meets his destined love, Amanda. The weyekin was dreamed into existence by Pal's mother, Mary Blue, a young Nez Perc woman. While working in a kitchen in a Mexican diner in California, Mary meets and marries the ambitious La Vent Larue, a mixed-blood Osage college student from a long line of failed men, who's determined to be the success in his family. His job as an urban planner assisting the mayor of Gilroy, Calif., requires him to expedite a series of unconscionable projects, such as removing an Indian burial ground to make way for a shopping center. Mary Blue turns away from her compromised husband and conjures up the weyekins, spirits who take the form of magical companions (named Chingaro, Parker, Hinmot) to guide her son, Palimony, to Amanda. Mary had named her son ""Palomino,"" but the white nurse had intentionally changed the name on his birth certificate. That incident turned out to be emblematic of Pal's misbegotten future relationships with women. With his father descending into madness, Pal grows up different in both skin color and spirit from his white classmates. His main shortcoming, in Mary's opinion, is his irrepressible desire to be liked, causing him to fall for impossibly inappropriate women: a zealous Christian named Sally Pedon, a musician/waitress named Brandy and the beautiful, wealthy and unscrupulous Tara Dunnahowe. These teenage escapades provide some of the more entertaining moments in Penn's dreamscape. Through the lens of Pal's erotic itinerary, Penn creates a novel satirizing Californian mores as it balances personal, soulful dreams against that big one: the American dream. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 07/03/2000
Release date: 07/01/2000
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 282 pages - 978-0-8165-2053-4
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