Spirits of the Ordinary

Spirits of the Ordinary

A Tale of Casas Grandes

By Kathleen Alcala

Mariner Books, Paperback, 9780156005685, 256pp.

Publication Date: May 1998


This “strong and finely rendered book” (Larry McMurtry) takes us to the Mexican-american border in the 1870s, conjuring up a magical tale of faith, gold, and family passions that “echoes the style of Isabel Allende and Laura Esquivel” (Washington Post Book World). Winner of the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Book Award.

A spectacular tapestry of folklore, spirituality, and landscape, this extraordinary first novel vividly blurs fantasy and reality as it details one family's search for identity. In a small village in northern Mexico, the Carabajals have long been practicing their Jewish faith in secret. The father, Julio, spends his days dabbling with alchemy. His wife, Mariana, cannot speak but is clairvoyant. Their son has allied himself with a Catholic woman and is obsessed with his search for gold. Central to the surprising destinies of these characters are the momentous events and the ancient and sacred cliff dwellings of Casas Grandes, high in the mountains. This story of two cultures, of the elusive bonds of love and faith, is dazzling in its originality. It is for all readers who loved Allende's The House of Spirits or Esquivel's Like Water for Chocolate.

About the Author
Kathleen Alcala is a writer whose trilogy on nineteenth century Mexico was published by Chronicle Books. Her work has received the Western States Book Award, the Governor's Writers Award, a Pacific Northwest Bookseller's Award, and a Washington State Book Award. A co-founder and contributing editor to The Raven Chronicles, Kathleen teaches at the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts on Whidbey Island, a low-residency program. She was recently deemed an Island Treasure by the Bainbridge Island Arts and Humanities Council. Kathleen received an Artist Trust/Washington State Arts Commission Award for work on her book, Cities of Gold. She is a member of Los Nortenos writers group. Her work has been produced for public radio, and she co-wrote, with director Olga Sanchez, a play based on her novel, Spirits of the Ordinary that was produced by The Miracle Theatre of Portland, Oregon. Kathleen is the author of a short story collection, MRS. VARGAS AND THE DEAD NATURALIST, and three novels: Spirits of the Ordinary, The Flower in the Skull, and Treasures in Heaven. Her collection of essays, The Desert Remembers My Name is available from the University of Arizona Press, and her previous books are all available in paperback. Her latest story appears in SEATTLE NOIR from Akashic Books.