cover image The Ghost of Milagro Creek

The Ghost of Milagro Creek

Melanie Sumner, Algonquin/Shannon Ravenel, $13.95 paper (272p) ISBN 978-1-56512-917-7

In her second novel, Sumner (The School of Beauty and Charm) crafts a convincing, despairing portrait of Taos, N.Mex. Ignacia Vigil Romero, a tough Jicarilla Apache medicine woman raising her grandson, Mister, uses charms and spells to aid in her motherly duties and to help her neighbors. After Ignacia succumbs to a long illness, there's no one to stop Mister and his best friend Tomas, who recently had a falling out with his lover, Rocky, from fulfilling their long-held suicide pact. Tomás's gun fails to fire, however, leaving Mister alive—and a murderer. Fleeing the police, Mister seeks Rocky to try and get answers. Sumner's cast and a strong sense of Native American and Latino spirituality create a fascinating portrait of a community, wrapping issues of alcoholism, friendship, parental neglect, and conflicted identity around a multidimensional tragedy. Passages narrated by Ignacia (as a living and dead character) possess appealing energy, though some other chapters—especially involving the police investigation—limp along. Readers will be fascinated by Sumner's Taos, but may find the central drama between Mister and Rocky unsatisfying. (July)