Wednesday, May 20, 2009

I Laughed, I Wanted to Cry

This isn't going to be your traditional book review of Amigoland. You see it can't be. Oscar Casares is my cousin and this book was very personal for me. But as an avid reader and an English minor I can tell you that yes, I would still think that it is a wonderful story even if I wasn't related to the author.

And besides all that, this is my blog so I can get up close and personal about this novel. You see, Oscar's father Everardo was 10 years older than my dad and he just passed away a year and a half ago. My Uncle Hector is 5 years older than my dad and in a nursing home outside of San Diego. He's lost most of his memory now and can't walk around very well at the age of 90. The last time my father really had a good visit and talk with him was 5.5 years ago when my Aunt Celia died in Fresno. My dad drove all the way to California by himself and picked up my uncle in San Diego and they drove together to Fresno. My dad, Nico, is 85 years old and his memory is really starting to go. It's getting harder to have a conversation with him these days because he gets lost. It's really sad.

Keep those facts in mind and think about what it was like for me to read a novel about two older brothers, ages 90 and 70. The older brother has been in a nursing home for a while and he and his brother haven't spoken in a few years, until the younger brother finally decides to go visit after much encouragement from his housekeeper/girlfriend.

The story is bittersweet and written in such a beautiful prose. Oscar's descriptions are vivid and his dialogue is entertaining. I love the dream sequences. In one, my favorite, Don Fidencio dreams that he sees his younger self and that he wants to speak to himself to tell him that he's going to make it and that he'll be okay.

Socorro, the housekeeper/girlfriend is so endearing. You feel for her when you hear the story about her unhappy marriage and how it ended. She is both kind and caring and you wish you can make everything turn out just right for her.

Celestino is a good man, but he doesn't really believe that he deserves the love of such a young woman, so it's hard for him to return her love. He's skeptical about his brother's story about how their grandfather came to Texas but his love for his brother (and some convincing by Socorro) makes him break him out of the nursing home so they can begin their adventure to Mexico.

Fidencio is clearly the main character of the two brothers. He has a very strong personality and he's hilarious in the way that he describes everyone by names he can remember, because he can't remember their actual name. So there's his roommate that's "the one with the hole in his back," another resident of the nursing home, "the one with the ugly finger." And there are the nurses, like the male nurse who he calls, "the one with the big ones." Fidencio is hands down the most entertaining of the brothers and the one I really became attached to. His failings pull at my heart strings, maybe because I see so much of my own father in him.

When I finished reading Amigoland I wrote my cousin and I told him, "It is SO VERY VERY GOOD!! Even better than your short stories, and those were good. You wrote a beautiful novel! Thank you for sharing it with me."

I'm not the only who thinks Amigoland is great! Publisher's Weekly has already given Amigoland a good review and it has been listed on USA Today's Summer Reading List.
If you read Oscar's collection of short stories, Brownsville, brace yourself for an even better read.

1 comment:

Jenny, the Bloggess said...

That is fabulous!