Garca, the author of four award-winning novels including Leaving Home, here collects autobiographical sketches recalling his childhood in rural South Texas after WWII. As in many books shaped by memory, Garca's follows its own quixotic internal logic, emerging as a rambling, moving and at times raucously funny portrait of an extended family. From the story of how the town priest attempted to cure Uncle Matas of his prodigious swearing to the abundance of anecdotes about Grandmother Mara, the tough, eccentric clan matriarch, Garca's family is described with much affection but little sentimentality. In the process, the author reveals rural Mexican culture in Texas of the time; from the breakfasts of chorizos, tortillas and eggs, to the unbreakable bonds of family, which envelopes Garca's mad aunt Pepa, and even two ``Anglos''-a down-on-her-luck waitress and her placid, chain-smoking young son-driven by misfortune to rent from Garca's grandmother. ``It was easy to laugh and cry in the dark with the stories,'' Garca writes in his introduction. ``We never knew who would be there for the night: relatives of all shapes, mental states.... There was nothing quite so thrilling as to see a favorite storyteller approach.... I never realized until later how much of life I had covered or had covered me during those years.'' The young Garca listened intently to those stories; readers will be glad that he did. (Sept.)
Garcia, a veterinarian and novelist (To a Widow of Children, LJ 4/1/94), presents autobiographical anecdotes of growing up in a poor Mexican American family in southwestern Texas. Even the more unpolished pieces show Garcia's natural storytelling ability. How he honed this ability becomes obvious: he and his siblings grew up hearing and telling stories. Friday night confession was a creative venture. The oldest child would begin the tale, then shift the blame to the next child, and so on down the line. The characters in the sketches are real, from the breast-beating grandmother to the brother who could not be cured of swearing. Hardship, cruelty, and tragedy are present but warmed by an unsentimental, rollicking sense of humor and life. Although some of the pieces have been published before, their sources are not readily available. This anthology should help make Garcia's work more accessible. Of interest to both public and academic libraries.-Nancy Shires, East Carolina Univ., Greenville, N.C.