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Thirteen Senses: A Memoir

Thirteen Senses: A Memoir

4.4 7
by Victor Villasenor

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A daring memoir of love, magic, adventure, and miracles, Victor Villaseñor's Thirteen Senses continues the exhilarating family saga that began in the widely acclaimed bestseller Rain of Gold, delivering a stunning story of passion, family, and the forgotten mystical senses that stir within us all.

Thirteen Senses begins with the


A daring memoir of love, magic, adventure, and miracles, Victor Villaseñor's Thirteen Senses continues the exhilarating family saga that began in the widely acclaimed bestseller Rain of Gold, delivering a stunning story of passion, family, and the forgotten mystical senses that stir within us all.

Thirteen Senses begins with the fiftieth wedding anniversary of the aging former bootlegger Salvador and his elegant wife, Lupe. When asked by a young priest to repeat the sacred ceremonial phrase "to honor and obey," Lupe surprises herself and says. "No, I will not say 'obey'. How dare you! You don't talk to me like this after fifty years of marriage and I now knowing what I know!" After the hilarious shock of Lupe's rejection of the ceremony, the Villaseñor family is forced to examine the love that Lupe and Salvador have shared for so many years — a universal, gut-honest love that will eventually energize and inspire the couple into old age.

Editorial Reviews

Fort Worth Star-Telegram
“Thirteen Senses celebrates the power of Woman...And, of course, the thirteen senses.”
Washington Post
“Thirteen Senses is not only a stirring memoir of a single marriage but also a timeless love story.”
Thirteen Senses is an authentically absorbing story. Continuing the thread of the bestselling Rain of Gold, the memoir recounts the long and frequently stormy marriage of Villasenor's immigrant parents, the unforgettable and apparently unrelenting Salvador and Lupe. This vividly rendered story once again justifies the author's decision to return a $75,000 advance for a novel so that he might present his family saga as the gripping true story it is.
Publishers Weekly
Fans of Villasenor's admirable family epic, Rain of Gold (Arte Publico, 1991) will be hard-pressed to wade through this massive, workmanlike sequel. The book's humorous opening at the 50th-anniversary renewal of Villasenor's parents' wedding vows, the "bride" refuses to say "obey" as her sister catcalls from the front pew about the groom's unreliability gives way to a series of simplistic feminist diatribes followed by a nasty family squabble. The author then tracks his mother and father, Lupe and Salvador, through the passionate and turbulent first years of their marriage, always shadowed by Salvador's bootlegging and deceit, always redeemed by Lupe's fiery strength, her bottom-line common sense and a hearty helping of sex. Lupe follows Salvador around Mexico on his criminal and other exploits before putting her foot down; the book leaves them at the start of a presumably lawful, relatively calm life in California. Though the author espouses feminist views, his female characters are one-dimensional, axiom-spouting cultural stereotypes: suffering, saintly and bitter. Where the earlier book offered an enjoyable, unreconstructed representation of early 20th-century rural Mexican culture, here that culture has been infected by a feel-good mysticism that even the California setting doesn't excuse. The story meanders through linguistic anachronisms (no man in 1929 would have said "full Latina hips"), mixed metaphors, aimless digressions, countless exclamation marks and warmed-over New Age imagery like "The Father Sun was now gone, and the Mother Moon was coming up, and the Child Earth was cooling." The author's central question about his parents' relationship "Was it love?" brings a neat ifsuperficial unity to the narrative. 8 pages b&w photos not seen by PW. (Sept. 1) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
This is a fascinating, if problematic, account of the early married life of the author's parents, a young Mexican American couple living in California and coping with the economic and social effects of the Great Depression. Continuing the family saga he began in Rain of Gold, Villasenor tells of his father, Salvador, an extremely moral man who, paradoxically, bootlegs liquor to earn a living. His young bride, Lupe, who is beautiful and intelligent but also conventional and na ve, is kept ignorant of Salvador's livelihood until she is pregnant with their first child a dilemma the reader will be anxious to see resolved. However, the book delves too much and too often into private prayers and their alleged responses from God, the Virgin Mary, and a host of intervening angels. The theory of 13 senses is intriguing, but one grandmother's know-it-all spirituality becomes tiresome after its fifth or sixth intrusion into the narrative. Villasenor is at his best when portraying the realm of social reality, including the effects of the Mexican Revolution. While libraries will not need yet another spiritual instruction manual, this book merits space on the shelves of most public libraries for the author's skill in depicting his parents' circumstances and social evolution. [Rayo is simultaneously publishing Los Trece Sentidos, the Spanish-language edition of this book, ISBN 0-06-621297-9, $26. Ed.] Nedra C. Evers. Sacramento P.L., CA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Coherence takes a backseat to exuberant, purplish prose in this sprawling saga of a family's life in Mexico and the US, sequel to Rain of Gold (1991). Choosing to explain those eponymous senses only in an afterword, Villaseñor writes, "I deliberately didn't list them anywhere in the text, because if I had, then people wouldn't have experienced the book." We're enslaved, he continues, by the first five senses, "the perfect trap to keep us going around in circles inside of our brain computer" instead of the apparently preferable "heart and soul computers," sites of senses six through nine. (Ten through thirteen seem to reside in outer space, along with the author's reasoning.) There's plenty of heart and soul but perhaps too little brain in Villaseñor's overstuffed, undisciplined narrative, which centers on the alternately wacky, dreamy, and difficult lives of his parents, grandparents, and cousins, a melting-pot clan of Indians and Europeans who combined to form "a United Force from two different WORLDS!" Many of the countless anecdotes are little more than shaggy-dog stories, although others carry more weight: the saga of his uncle Domingo, who finally found a long-sought gold mine after many misadventures, then proceeded to drink the proceeds; the end-of-days realization by Villaseñor's mother that she had never told her husband she loved him. The author's passion and talent for storytelling are evident throughout, as are his radiant good humor and devotion to the wisdom of black-clad crones who pop up from time to time in these pages to bliss out over the joys of eating avocado-slathered corn tortillas and watching "silky-thin clouds out over the sea where theFather Sun, the Right Eye of the Almighty, was setting." A little of the incessant be-here-now grooviness can go a long way, though readers inclined to New Age sensibilities will find the ever-enthusiastic Villaseñor a pleasant and engaging companion. Author tour

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HarperCollins Publishers
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5.30(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.40(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Such a man and woman aren't measured from their heads to their feet, but from their heads to the sky, for these people are giants -- who know the Thirteen senses of Creation!

Was it love?

Had it ever really been love?

For fifty years they'd been husband and wife. For fifty years the Father Sun had come and gone. For fifty years the Mother Moon had risen and disappeared. For fifty years they'd loved, fought, and lived together, and now, here they were standing before the priest once again, ready to renew their wedding vows.

Juan Salvador Villaseñor, the nineteenth child of his family, was seventy-five years old. Maria Guadalupe Gomez, the eighth child of her family, was sixty-eight years old. Salvador now turned and took the hand of the woman standing beside him. Lupe turned and looked into Salvador's eyes.

The priest began his words, and Salvador and Lupe's children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren looked on with love, respect, and gusto. It was a small wedding this time with just family and a few friends, being done in the living room of the great house that Salvador and Lupe had designed and built nearly thirty-five years before.

Sunlight streamed in through the large windows behind Salvador and Lupe as the priest continued his words. People's eyes filled with tears. This was a magic moment, where everyone in the room just knew that God's blessing was with them.

The groom was dressed in his favorite dark maroon suit with a striped tie of silver and gold. Thebride was wearing a beautiful three-quarterlength white dress with intricate lace and interwoven ribbon of yellow gold. Salvador's hair was white and full and still curly. Lupe's hair was mostly gray, too, yet sprinkled with beautiful long strands of black.

The priest continued, and the small gathering of family and friends listened to every word. This time, different from last time, the priest was much younger than the couple getting married. "Juan Salvador Villaseñor," the young priest was now saying, "do you take Maria Guadalupe Gomez to be your wife? Do you promise to be true to her in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, to love and honor all the days of your life?"

Lupe turned and stared at Salvador's lion mane of hair and the huge, long, white moustache on his upper lip. It moved like a fat worm as he spoke. "Yes, I do," he said.

Hearing this, she realized how different these words now felt compared to last time. When she'd heard these words fifty years before, she'd been so young and naïve that she'd taken his "Yes, I do" to mean so much more than she did this time. Last time, she'd thought these words meant that she would have someone with her through good times, bad times, sickness, health, and there would always be love and honor. What a fool she'd been! If the truth were known, sometimes she would've been better off without him.

Then, she realized that the young priest was speaking to her. "And you, Maria Guadalupe Gomez," said the young man of God, "do you take Juan Salvador Villaseñor to be your husband? Do you promise to be true to him in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, to love him and honor him all the days of your life?"

At first Lupe didn't answer. My God, this was exactly what she'd done for all these years. But had he? Had Salvador been true to her and honored her? Or, had he ever really even loved her?

Then she suddenly remembered how these words "in bad times" had almost stopped her last time. Even back then, when she'd been eighteen years old, she'd wondered if it was wise for any woman to agree to this statement.

"Say, 'yes, I do,'" said the young priest, leaning in close to Lupe.

Lupe almost laughed. This was exactly what the priest had done last time. Only then the priest had been old, and he'd looked so full of authority that she'd been intimidated. But she wasn't intimidated in the least this time, and so she just looked at this young priest and smiled.

Juan Salvador saw her smile, that little smile of hers that was so full of mischief. He grinned, squeezing her hand.

Feeling her hand being squeezed, Lupe turned and looked at this gray-haired, old man standing beside her, and she saw his grin. She grinned, too.

"Okay," she said, squeezing his hand in return. "Yes, I do."

Everyone in the room looked greatly relieved, except Salvador. He'd never had any doubt.

Then it was Lupe's turn to repeat the words of holy acceptance, but when she came to the passage, "To have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part," tears came to her eyes. After fifty years of marriage, she could now see that these were the very words that had given her the power to endure all the hardships of the years.

Why, these words "until death do us part" were the very foundation of every marriage. And she could also see that yes, even back then, fifty years ago, she'd had the wisdom to see that these were the words that had given her beloved mother, Doña Guadalupe, the strength to rise up like a mighty star and bring her familia back from the dead, time and again during that awful Mexican Revolution!

She could now see so clearly that these words "until death do us part" were the words that gave each and every woman the power, the vision to accept the Grace of God and gain the absolute conviction of mind...

Thirteen Senses. Copyright © by Victor Villasenor. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Victor Villaseñor vive en California en el rancho donde fue criado. Es autor de numerosos obras editoriales y aclamadas obras, entre ellas Lluvia de oro, Jurado: La Gente vs. Juan Corona, y ¡Macho!.

Victor Villaseñor's bestselling, critically acclaimed works, as well as his inspiring lectures, have brought him the honor of many awards. Most recently he was selected as the founding chair of the John Steinbeck Foundation. He lives in Oceanside, California.

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Thirteen Senses 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I just finished reading this wonderful memoir by Victor Villasenor and I cannot express how profoundly this book has affected me. This is a must read for everyone...I feel like it has changed my life and my way of thinking. I have the utmost respect for this author and although I have not read his previous books, I am ordering Rain of Gold today in hopes that it will be as incredible as Thirteen Senses. His characters are complex, humorous, and totally inspirational. The female characters are strong and almost magical in their perception. This is a male author who obviously has the utmost respect for women. This is a book that is hard to put down...
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed the life of Salvador and Lupe and thier life journey. I enjoyed it beacause of the reality it spoke of. We should all be so lucky to retain so much family history.