Family's Saga Blends History with Folklore

By Richmond, Dick | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), November 17, 1996 | Go to article overview

Family's Saga Blends History with Folklore


Richmond, Dick, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


"WILD STEPS OF HEAVEN"

A history by Victor Villasenor (11 hours, unabridged, Brilliance Bookcassette, $23.95)

In "Rain of Gold," the author described his family's history from his mother's side. In this second volume he continues, but this time he chronicles his father's family, the Villasenors, in a sweeping, tightly written narrative that brings the clan from a village in Mexico to the United States at a time when the land south of the border was in the agony of another rebirth - its stormy revolutionary era. This is really an account of his grandfather, Juan Villasenor, a proud man of self-damaging superciliousness who could trace his bloodlines to the kings of Spain, and of his grandmother, Margarita, a remarkable Indian woman who was able to rein in her husband just enough to keep him from imploding on his own arrogance. In this saga, the author cleverly weaves folklore into a history in which evil has many faces, only some of which are blatantly obvious. The two extremes of these evils are personified in Juan Villasenor and a savage army colonel who leads troops against his own people. Juan's evil is a tragic flaw in his character in that he adores his fair-skinned, fair-haired children and is contemptuous of those who have the physical characteristics of his wife. As far as the colonel is concerned, he has probably taken up residence in Dante's Inferno. "Wild Steps of Heaven" is also a story of love and heroism, in which the principal character is Juan's son, Jose, a sensitive individual who earns the unjustified wrath of his father for an act of spontaneous bravery. It is Jose, too, who leads a small force in a running battle against the colonel's troops. Enhanced by the reading talents of Dick Hill, this production is a wonderful listen. Brilliance Bookcassettes must be listened to on a stereo unit with a balance control or with an adapter ($4.95) for headsets. The tapes and the adapters may be found in bookstores or ordered by calling (800) 222-3225. "INDIAN KILLER" A novel by Sherman Alexie (4 hours, abridged, Audio Literature, $21.95) The author, who is a Spokane/Coeur d'Alene Indian, writes a chilling account about John Smith, a 6-foot-6 full-blooded Indian of striking countenance. Smith is of an unknown tribe, although he designates himself as a Navajo. …

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