La Maravilla by
“Alfredo Véa, Jr. has written such a terrific novel about the poor, the disenfranchised & the forgotten that it doesn’t make you feel pity at all...It’s beautifully written; it’s thematically vital for our times. It addresses questions larger than the mundane world we usually live in. Vea writes about human diversity beautifully, making light of stereotypes, turning them over in his hands as if they were curious pebbles. If you have a community with 20 races ... then not to give each race its proper due would be worse than being racist...Véa doesn’t romanticize poverty. But he allows his fictional grandpa to point out that having yourself & the horizon is more than enough for any human being.”—Carolyn See, Los Angeles Times
"Buckeye Road wasn't much of a town, just a place where a pocked and pitted road met an invisible street....It was less that unincorporated, it was unknown..." Yet it is here in the desert outside the Phoenix city limits that Alfredo Véa, Jr., finds a world of marvels spilling out of the adobe homes, tar-paper shacks, rusted Cadillacs, and battered trailers that are otherwise known as "Buckeye." Three thousand years of history and the myths of many cultures, as well as the fates of a dozen unforgettable characters, will all collide one hot summer in 1958; and the events played out on Buckeye Road will amount to nothing less than a new and life-affirming vision of the American Southwest...and of America itself. The vivid symbol of Buckeye Road is La Maravilla--the blanket of marigolds laid upon graves in Mexican cemeteries, and the mythical dog, sacred to the Aztecs, who returns from the under-world to lead his master to Mictlan, the land of the dead. La Maravilla is the embodiment of belonging to two worlds, and of being torn between the love and fear of both. It is the condition and mystery borne by all who inhabit this American outback--whether they are Blacks, Chicanos, Asians, Native Americans, Mexicans, European immigrants, or Anglo misfits. For Beto, the young boy at the center of this magnificent story, it is the dilemma that he must somehow resolve and emerge from whole. For Beto has no parents to guide him--his mother has fled the "old ways" of her Mexican family for a bright new American life beyond the desert sunset in California, where "Indians are history and Sunday is for football, not church!" But in her place, and more than filling it, is Beto's aristocratic Spanish grandmother, a Catholic curandera with a passion for the music of Duke Ellington. He also has his grandfather, a Yaqui Indian whose spirit soars above a desert without frontiers. With this extraordinary first novel, Alfredo Véa, Jr., takes his place in the first rank of American authors.
Here are the questions discussed November 18, 2020:
• Icebreaker: If there is an immigration story in your family heritage what is it? Briefly. And/or where is the place you have lived the longest and how long have you lived there?
• The cover blurb of the book I read from Carolyn See says “I can’t get it out of my mind.” Was that true for you? If yes, what specifically? If no, why not?
• What did you think about the writing style and point of view and why?
• Does this book written in 1993 still hold up today? What part? Why? If no, what part? Why?
• Who is your favorite character? Why?
• This story has magical realism like many other Latin American novels and stories? How did it work for you this time, i.e., how were you able to integrate it into your understanding of the story?
• How did the author do with portraying the child narrator and his poverty?
• What was your favorite image of the Phoenix area?
• Why do you think Josephina left the adobe?
• If you could change one aspect about this book as a pretend editor what would it be?
• Any ambiguities we need to clear up?
• Any other questions you have for the group?
• Favorite line, image, or passage?