The Water Museum

Little, Brown. Apr. 2015. 272p. ISBN 9780316334372. $25; ebk. ISBN 9780316334389. F
The latest collection from fiction and nonfiction author Urrea (creative writing, Univ. of Illinois, Chicago; The Devil's Highway) presents a series of unresolved endings in the author's classic picturesque prose. Where does recently estranged Hubbard go, in "Taped to the Sky," after his joyride across the United States results in unexpected acquaintances? What is Joey's fate in "Young Man Blues" after he betrays the club his imprisoned dad remains loyal to? Does Dexter Bower, in "The Sous Chefs of Iogua," come to accept the changing demographics of his Iowa town? "Mountains Without Number" begs the question, "Is the town dead when old men die or children leave?" The stories often focus on adjusting to life in the Unites States, on men choosing between being a vato or a gabacho; fans of The Hummingbird's Daughter or Queen of America will already be familiar with Urrea's emphasis on rural life and occasional Mexican slang. Containing ten new stories, this brief yet powerful collection also features the award-winning "Amapola" from the anthology Phoenix Noir, "Bid Farewell to her Many Horses" from Six Kinds of Sky, and "Mr. Mendoza's Paintbrush," originally published as a graphic novel in 2010.
VERDICT Urrea's well-recommended collection leads readers to feel empathy for each character, deserving or not, and provides a gut-wrenching view of life along the sidelines.
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