cover image The Journey of Hector Rabinal

The Journey of Hector Rabinal

Donley Watt, Author Texas Christian University Press $12.95 (194p) ISBN 978-0-87565-125-5

Despite its flaws, Watt's first novel achieves a state of grace thanks to the simplicity of its title character, Hector Rabinal. Hector, a Guatemalan peasant, falls afoul of that country's military regime through no fault of his own. After soldiers burn down his home, he leaves behind his wife and sons and flees to Mexico. On the advice of a priest he continues northward, crosses the border, and works illegally in Texas hoping to earn enough money so he can send for his family. Watt recounts Hector's adventures in a language that sometimes strains to be poetical (``a sadness that has layered itself inside of me like a wall of thin, jagged rocks'') or inhabits the syntactical no-man's land that some writers believe sounds like Spanish (``even now he has only six years''). The lack of complex, rounded characters also mars this short novel: Hector's fellow villagers are all honorable campesinos while the others (the ``coyote'' who offers to take Hector across the border, the exploitative Texas rancher who hires him) are unremittingly callous. Once Hector turns south to search for his wife, however, Watt's novel transcends its limitations, turning into a spare and moving parable about spiritual love. (May)