Hi-def, brutally honest tales from the streets of Tucson.
Publishers WeeklyMorales's sometimes powerful but disappointing debut portrays Tucson as a crumbling city teetering on the edge of disaster, where violence triumphs over every character and even the most hopeful of circumstances. The streets are run by the Latin Kings gang; their fates, like nearly all of Morales's characters, are sealed at birth. Among the expansive milieu, there's Jaime, a straitlaced teenager seeking revenge for the murder of his boyfriend; Mr. Gutierrez, a kindhearted old man overwhelmed with grief; Peanut, a gang member who wants a better life for his younger sister; and the women of Tucson, who seem to have little choice outside of becoming rape victims or prostitutes. Unfortunately, Morales's willingness to fall into scenes of graphic violence—not only to drive his point home, but for shock value and, often, to stand in for more original or artful prose—becomes woefully predictable. For a novel that wishes so earnestly for a better future for its downtrodden characters, it does everything in its power to obliterate those hopes in the reader. (May)
Kirkus ReviewsSnapshots of life on the lower rungs in the Arizona desert, and the graphic degradations it provokes in its denizens. Though Morales' debut work of fiction is billed as a novel, it's more a collection of loosely linked stories; some characters appear numerous times, but nothing's lost if the pieces are read out of order. (Indeed, the book has multiple tables of contents, seemingly encouraging this approach.) The author focuses on Tuscon's most troubled, violent and grittiest inhabitants. The opener, "Torchy's," centers on the initiation of a young gang member, and the closing piece, "Rainbow," tracks the slow emotional and physical deterioration of a young prostitute. Morales affects a plainspoken, colloquial style that captures the rough-and-tumble attitudes of the people who live there. But the stories, usually overly long, suffer from ungainly tonal shifts, lumbering toward hyper-violent conclusions that erase the realism of the opening pages. In "Kindness," for instance, a teenage boy arrives in Tuscon after learning his boyfriend has been killed by a gang of homophobes, and soon he takes up residence with an aging flower-shop owner tormented by the death of his son. By the story's end, the boy has acquired an unrealistic thirst for bloody vengeance, and his caretaker subjects himself to an absurd act of self-annihilation. In "Loveboat," an Air Force officer awakens to his homosexuality, then grows self-destructive to a degree ridiculous even for a high-strung military man. Morales' shorter stories have better focus and a more consistent tone. In "El Camino," a car on fire crystallizes one character's childhood fears and exposes a nobility he is rarely able to display on the streets.Stories full of potentially intriguing scenarios but marred by B-movie horror endings.
- Coffee House Press
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 9.02(w) x 6.06(h) x 0.92(d)
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