"I cannot sleep unless I am surrounded by books."

Borges

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Thirteen Senses by Victor Villasenor



When I first heard that Victor Villasenor had written Thirteen Senses, I was excited. I adored Rain of Gold so much, that I expected even greater things of his new book. I trekked down to Olvera Street from nearby Echo Park to attend his signing and discussion there. I wasn’t disappointed. Mr. Villasenor spoke eloquently, vibrantly about his life, about his dyslexia and most of all his love of family. My son Phillip and I had a wonderful time after the discussion, speaking with Victor and his wife about the book and about life in general. We had to buy two copies of Thirteen Senses because we were both fighting over who would read it first. Two hours after the event saw my 18-year-old son and myself both deeply engrossed on each end of the sofa books in hand. Neither of us spoke for a while but occasionally one of us would laugh out loud and the other would look over the pages with smiling, happy eyes. We both finished the book late that night or rather early the next morning and we both had the same conclusion – we LOVED it.

The story starts at the 50th wedding anniversary and wedding vow renewal of Lupe and Juan Salvador Villasenor. When the young priest performing the ceremony asks Lupe if she will obey her husband, she shouts out no to the shock of her family and friends. She goes on to say that she will love and cherish him but obey? How dare the priest ask such a question? After the ceremony, her children ask her if she really loved Juan Salvador and the ensuing chapters go on to describe their first years of marriage.

The book is filled with the family’s mystical connection to spirits, God, angels and each other. There is pain, betrayal, love, laughter, wonder and joy throughout the lives of this couple and their children. One reviewer states that the mysticism is too much even for California, but the reviewer obviously isn’t Mexican. I grew up with this and found the book very real, very Mexicano and very human. I think I will always love Rain of Gold more than Thirteen Senses but that is not to say that one is better than the other. The truth is that they are both equally excellent, it’s just that for me Rain of Gold is more about the romance, the finding of that other, that other half of yourself, your soul mate and that sense of wonder and of floating on a cloud. Thirteen Senses is about a different kind of romance, one based on daily life, everyday things like changing diapers, making the beds, sex, grown up love, paying the bills and building a life together and the work it entails. There is fighting and making up, hurt feelings and anger, love and sex. In Rain of Gold we are taken back to our first love, young love and in Thirteen Senses we grow up.

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