Has there been a film version?
Who are the important characters?
Antonio Marez – a young boy living in New Mexico with his family, he’s the youngest, he struggles with issues of truth and morality
Ultima – la curandera, an elderly lady with magical powers and the ability to cure evil and sickness, many people consider her to be a witch
Narciso – a friend of the Marez family, also the town drunk, he has a garden with almost magical qualities
Tenorio Trementina – an evil man who has been bullying town members for years, he has three daughters who engage in black magic
The Marez parents – Antonio’s parents, his father used to be a vaquero and is restless even in his age, his mother is the daughter of religious farmers and desperately wants Antonio to become a priest
Cico – a friend of Antonio’s who is different from the rest, he believes in the golden carp
Florence – another of Antonio’s friends, he is blonde and good looking, he doesn’t believe in God, but still goes to church just to be near his friends
What’s it about?
When Antonio, or Tony, is six years old, his family has a well known curandera named Ultima come to live with them. For a while, Tony has been torn between his two vastly different heritages. On one side, he is a Luna like his mother; a farmer and religious man. On the other, he is a Marez; a cowboy with wanderlust and a flair for the magical. Tony has long been struggling to reconcile the two and find his place in the world. When Ultima comes, she and Tony form a special bond as he helps her with her work. Together they face curses and several deaths, as they confront the evil Tenorio and his daughters.
Why is this book a classic/bestseller?
It’s a well known work of Chicano literature, and a very commonly challenged book.
Do I recommend you read this book?
It’s not super, but it’s not bad. I think it’s a good representation of Chicano literature, personally.
How did this book make my list?
I had to read it for my Minority Authors class in college.
Has it won any awards?
I don’t think so.
“The chilled wind blew around the corners of the houses nestled in the dark valley, brooding, singing of the old blood which was mine. Then the owl cried; it sang to the million stars that dotted the dark-blue sky, the Virgin’s gown. All was watched over, all was cared for. I slept.” – p 50
This book is a great bildungsroman that also contrasts the struggle between the ancient Mexican Indian beliefs and growing Catholicism. Tony is confronted with death of several types – those of good and those of evil men, and those of people who fall in between. By seeing everything through Tony’s eyes – the actions of the townspeople, the dreams he has, and the wishes of his parents as they essentially fight over his people, we get a good idea of the struggle he and many other children like him faced throughout history. The language can get a bit over the top at times, between the verbose descriptions and the excessive swearing in Spanish by Tony’s friends. And I very much struggled with relating the concept of Tony’s three brothers to anything else in the story. Like I said earlier, however, this is a great book to read in order to get a taste of Chicano literature.