Author: Michael Chavez

Publisher: Regal Crest

ISBN: 978-1-61929-135-5 (Ebook)

Michael Chavez is a good writer; he is straight-forward, and his dialogue is believable. He doesn’t employ tricky plotting technique -- does not try to be clever -- but has a gift for leading the reader on; there is always something just around the corner. This third novel has the enticement of soap opera, but deals with ordinary people facing life-shaping decisions.

Chavez’ technique is to juggle several small stories built on a couple complex relationships that started with lies and bad choices; as the years go on, the individual stories become more and more entwined. It does stretch the credibility a bit that the principal characters remain in close enough proximity to affect one another’s lives many years later. That’s not the way it usually happens in the United States where people are constantly on the make and on the move. The difference is that the stories are set in Santa Fe and Albuquerque, New Mexico.

A small town feeling pervades the novel, and I believe it must reflect the way it is among middle class Hispanic families. Walking The Camino Sagrado is redolent with their traditions and flavors, but the overall effect is to break through the die-hard mythology of our American Southwest to show a realistically described “minority” as a now-dominant, American, “not-so-sub-culture.” Hispanic roots define our “borderlands” region. I am not sure, though, that a wide audience will understand the long history of people in New Mexico if their perception is clouded by issues that currently define our states along the U.S.-Mexico line. If they do look back to the 1800’s, they will gain more from the novel’s approach to the central issue.

That central issue is homosexual love. The publisher, Royal Crest, specializes in lesbian and gay fiction, yet this novel could be mainstreamed; it is minimally soft-porn romance and not overtly LGTBQ-political. The serious message seems to be that these two male lovers are not only romantic but also morally good partners, and that the heterosexual couples around them have a hard time being as successful in love as they are, perhaps because they did not enter into wholly intentional (honest) relationships. If this is a common gay lit niche theme, I am not informed of it, and I am inclined to believe Chavez has the purpose and intelligence to paint on a much larger canvas, Brueghel-like, perhaps, to adequately document our rapidly evolving society, touching on related, urgent topics.

One important topic treated in the development of the gay relationship is sexual exploitation via the Internet. It’s kept in perspective here in a time when popular literature has trended to over-utilize that scary device. Another topic of equally importance – common in life but under-utilized in fiction -- is financial abuse of an elderly parent. Chavez kept this in perspective as well, but I hope the subject is spotlighted in book discussions. A third topic worth mentioning is religion and its divisions and confusion over homosexuality. In this the author has captured our society wrestling with unprecedented change, and he seems painfully aware of the impact on typically multigenerational Mexican-American families as the younger generation assimilates into an ever-more mindlessly materialistic society.

Walking The Camino Sagrado is not as mysterious as his earlier novel, CREED, but that’s the ultimate value in it.

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