When iron-willed Josie Salazar's husband walks out on her and their two daughters, she flees California and returns to her Texas hometown just above the Mexican border. It seems her husband, Harold Newman, had good reason to dissolve their marriage, but this masterly novel's winding, nonlinear plot only gradually divulges the secrets of Josie's sprawling clan, introduced in Islas's well-received first novel, The Rain God. The second installment in a projected trilogy vigorously portrays three generations of Mexican-Americans fighting prejudice while struggling to achieve self-definition. Their adaptive responses to Anglo culture vary sharply: Josie's proud, atheistic father, Sancho, is easygoing; her pious aunt Jesus Maria sees sin everywhere; her favorite cousin, Miguel Chico, a closet homosexual, becomes a writer and is labeled an ``ethnic novelist''--a fate one hopes will not befall the author of this beautifully delineated, down-to-earth, affecting saga. (Feb.)
Continuing the saga of the Angel family that began in Rain God ( LJ 12/84), Islas explores the effects of life on the border. Burdened by the pride of matriarch Mama Chona, all her children and grandchildren are raised to hate their Mexican, dark-skinned heritage, valuing a mythical light-skinned Spanish ancestry. Islas contrasts rebel Josie Salazar, dark and divorced, who fights the family on every front, with Josie's widowed aunt, Jesus Maria, who attempts to maintain Mama Chona's values despite the scorn of her children. The author displays consummate skill in portraying the anguish of Hispanics living on both sides of a literal and figurative border in the second volume of a proposed trilogy. An excellent addition to fiction collections.-- Andrea Caron Kempf, Johnson Cty. Community Coll. Lib., Overland Park, Kan.