cover image Chasing Shadows: Stories

Chasing Shadows: Stories

Chronicle Books, Lucrecia Guerrero. Chronicle Books, $12.95 (176pp) ISBN 978-0-8118-2794-2

Guerrero's debut collection creates a fictional Mexican-American border town named Mesquite as the setting for most of its 11 stories. This imagined locale gains authenticity as the hopes, anguish and folly of the villagers are revealed with admirable restraint and clarity. Most searingly rendered are the children, several of whom reappear in various tales. In ""The Curse,"" young Riquis tries to hide his crush on a new neighbor girl, Tonantzin, from his younger brother, Flaco, but Riquis's boyish mischief and embarrassed braggadocio serve to leave Tonantzin brokenhearted. Details of the youngsters' impoverished life in the dusty border town, menaced by the border police and often left to fend for themselves, add texture. Later, in ""Butterfly,"" Tonantzin is in fifth grade, the unwitting object of the lust of her teacher, Donald Murray. The unconsciously racist Murray's creepy pursuit of the girl is thwarted by the humble Flaco. Other kinds of power reversals meet with betrayals in the lives of adult characters: an abused wife finds freedom from her terrifying husband when an accident leaves him wheelchair-bound. In a subtle and melancholy story, ""Hotel Arco Iris,"" proudly middle-class Dolores Duran has the freedom to live alone with lovers that come and go. She is the polar opposite of her washerwoman and ostensible friend, the ever-pregnant Mercy, whose husband is sleeping with Dolores. But Dolores finds her plan for independence and freedom has a higher price than she expected; she wants love, but a fortune-teller spells out another, sadder fate. Though Guerrero's prose style can be blunt, the plainspoken declarations of her struggling characters give a quiet resonance to her tales. (July)