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A Voice in the Wilderness

As nightfall does not come at once, neither does oppression. In both instances, there's a twilight where everything remains seemingly unchanged, and it is in such twilight that we must be aware of change in the air, however slight, lest we become unwitting victims of the darkness. -- William O. Douglas

Sunday, October 11, 2009

A Glass of Water - Jimmy Santiago Baca - my review

I love Jimmy Santiago Baca's poetry so, when I was walking around the book store today and, "A Glass of Water" caught my attention, I sat down for a quick sip. It didn't take long for me to decide to buy the book. This is his first novel (according to the jacket) and it is incredible. It was so engaging that I read it entirely in one sitting - a 4 hour drink to be exact.

I won't give any spoilers so, my synopsis is deliberately brief. The story is about two brothers whose divergent paths re-converge at the story's end. This 215 page work attests to Baca's powerful story-telling abilities.

His prose is even more enjoyable as it echoes Baca's passion and accomplishment as a skilled poet. There are moments in the story where the writing is lyrical and rich in details - something only a poet can do.

The story line tangentially details the plight of undocumented Mexicans and, if I have any regrets, they would be that the underlying story - the bigotry that so many Americans harbor against Mexicans was not delved into more deeply. For my part, the story is great but I was left wanting to know more. There are parts of the story that could have been expanded and elaborated upon quite a bit more without making the book unnecessarily long (eg. the brothers' childhood relationship, ancillary characters such as the man with nickle-tipped boots, the land owner, Carmen and her work, the concentration camps).

The story deals with tension, strife, romance, angst, violence, revenge intrigue, regret, rage and forces of compromise. While the protagonists' character development were sufficient to carry the story, their development was more reflective of the title; drinks that only left me thirsty. I wanted to know more.

I am not sure what the title has to do with the story and, at least for this reader, a drink was not enough.

This book could easily work out to be part of a series because, there remains so much more to tell.

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