Set mainly in California's Central Valley, Manuel Muñoz's first collection of stories goes beyond the traditional family myths and narratives of Chicano literature and explores, instead, the constant struggle of characters against their physical and personal surroundings. Usually depicted as the lush and green world of rural quiet and tranquility, the Valley becomes the backdrop for the difficulties these characters confront as they try to maintain hope and independence in the face of isolation.

In the title story, a teenage boy learns the consequences of succumbing to the lure of a town outsider; in "Campo," a young farm worker frantically attempts to hide his supervision of a huddle of children from the town police, only to have another young man come to his unexpected rescue; in "The Unimportant Lila Parr," a father must expose his own secrets after his son is found murdered in a highway motel. From conflicts of family and sexuality to the pain of loss and memory, the characters in Zigzagger seek to reconcile themselves with the rural towns of their upbringing--a place that, by nature, is bordered by loneliness.


By six in the morning, the boy’s convulsions have stopped. The light is graying in the window, allowing the boy’s bedroom a shadowy calm—they can see without the lamp, and the father rises to turn it out. The boy’s mother moves to stop him and the father realizes that she is still afraid, so he leaves it on. The sun seems slow to rise, and the room cannot brighten as quickly as they would like—it will be cloudy today.

The father is a bold man, but even he could not touch his teenage son several hours ago, when his jerking body was at its worst. The father makes the doorways in their house look narrow and small, his shoulders threatening to brush the jambs, yet even he had trouble controlling the boy and his violent sleep. And it was the father who first noticed how the room had become strangely cold to them, and they put on sweaters in the middle of July—the boy’s body glistening, his legs kicking away the blankets as he moaned. The mother had been afraid to touch him at all and, even as the sun began rising, still made no move toward the boy.

In the morning light, the boy seems to have returned to health. He is sleeping peacefully now; he has not pushed away the quilts. His face has come back to a dark brown, the swelling around the eyes gone.

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