cover image The Curtain of Trees

The Curtain of Trees

Alberto Rios. University of New Mexico Press, $29.95 (158pp) ISBN 978-0-8263-2070-4

Cultural transformation, and small-town life along the Mexico-Arizona border, are illuminated in this tender collection of stories by poet and novelist Ros (Whispering to Fool the Wind; The Iguana Killer). There is little sentimentality in these nine tales, even as they delicately balance a nuanced melancholia with faith in the sustenance that family and close friends provide. The title story, which closes the collection in a sensuous and dramatic extended narrative, focuses on headstrong Carmelita and her family over years of betrayal, love and love lost. In Nine Quarter Moons a fierce wind blows through a town, as it does once a year, summoning change, fear and uncertainty in the community. This story and the next, which features two strangers who meet in a small town and try to find common ancestors (Outside Magdalena, Sonora), delineate the conflict between distrusting strangers and the need to bond with others. Ros explores characters who live on the fringes of society in The Other League of Nations, a dark, comic look at a coincidental meeting of the towns insane citizens. In other tales, a misfit sees the world differently, watching everyone from the village rooftops, and a homeless girl is also a careful observer, sussing people by looking at what they have left behind.... Ros demonstrates his considerable versatility with characterization and structure, writing in unadorned but potent prose. His characters are from another era (circa the 1950s), roaming the unpaved streets of small villages, their lives made vividly real through the authors powerful sensitivity and sharp eye for detail. (May)