By Graciela Limon
Houston: Arte Publico Press, 1999
ISBN # 1-55885-274-3-PBK
228 pages

Comments by Bob Corbett
October 2008

A powerful, sad and brilliant saga of a family over three generations engulfing two cultures. Graciela Limon follows the Betacourt family from Mexico of the 1880s to Los Angeles of 1964. The key figure who spans this whole novel is Dom Flavio Betancourt who rose from being a grocer’s son to being a rich and powerful land baron. Flavio was bound fast to his culture, a vigorous and violent man bent on preserving “face” at all costs.

The Betancourt family experience serious internal splits and troubles, illicit love affairs and tragic lacks of communication and love.

Eventually the lives of the Betancourts interact with the Santiago family, a family of native Mexican Americans, cliff dwellers, steeped in their ancient traditions, uncomfortable in the Western world, but protected and enriched by their ancestral roots, traditions and religion.

Limon’s story is stark and to the point, touching, tragic and painful. Dom Flavio Batancourt is a cruel brute, but as vividly real as though he were a man on one’s own block (albeit in a larger home than most of the rest of us). Most of the other half dozen or so central characters have their lives driven (and generally destroyed) by Flavio’s viciousness and stubbornness.

The novel is seldom pleasant; rather, it is touching, revealing of real human emotions and convincing responses to powerful stimuli. Each character is profound and believable.

Limon takes us deeply into two very different cultures – that of a male/macho dominated culture and the Mexican world of the rich landowner class in the period of 1880-1970 and into Mexican American Indian culture. She does so in a convincing and gripping fashion.

A well-told story, rich in conflict and mystery. I would strongly recommend it to all readers of serious fiction.

Bob Corbett


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