Book Review: 'Randy Lopez Goes Home'

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Rudolfo Anaya is considered the dean of Chicano writers. He has a new novel, called Randy Lopez Goes Home.


The novelist Rodolfo Anaya hails from New Mexico. He's now in his 70's, he's regarded as the dean of Chicano literature. And he has a new novel out called "Randy Lopez Goes Home."

Our reviewer Alan Cheuse says it shows Anaya working at the top of his powers.

ALAN CHEUSE: As the novel opens, Randy Lopez has returned to the village of his birth in northern New Mexico, after a lifetime of living among the Anglos. He meets one allegorically-tinged character after another - a pair of backslapping cowboys, a man who may be the devil, a woman who may be death, among others. It's just not clear what state besides New Mexico Randy is in. Is he alive or is he dead?

His "Life Among the Gringos," the title of a memoir he's written, was not entirely satisfying. In his home village, time shifts back and forth, villagers shift shapes on him, old teachers don't seem to recognize him. And now and then, he meets his parents but they don't seem ready to recognize him either.

When Randy gets the idea to build a bridge across the nearby river so he can idle again with the girl of his boyhood dreams, some townspeople went to help him, some want him to stop. And the most devilish temptation of all is the possibility of returning to the past where his parents remain always young and time has stopped.

Randy's quest, veteran readers will recognize, is as old as John Bunyan's "Pilgrim's Progress." The special flavor of the novel, always upbeat despite some horrifying setbacks Randy suffers, remain Anaya's own; the social particulars, the exact voices, the attire and the physical particulars - the stark but beautiful landscapes of northern New Mexico which Anaya so exactly describes - lend special heft to this short novel, as close to successful allegory as any contemporary American novel I've read.

NORRIS: The novel is "Randy Lopez Goes Home" by Rodolfo Anaya. Our reviewer Alan Cheuse is also a novelist. His latest is called "Song of Slaves in the Desert."

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