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La Maravilla

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  342 ratings  ·  43 reviews
"Buckeye Road wasn't much of a town, just a place where a pocked and pitted road met an invisible street....It was less that unincorporated, it was unknown..."Yet it is here in the desert outside the Phoenix city limits that Alfredo Vea, Jr., finds a world of marvels spilling out of the adobe homes, tar-paper shacks, rusted Cadillacs, and battered trailers that are otherwi ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published April 1st 1994 by Plume (first published January 1st 1993)
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Arielle Hebert If you like magical realism, I would highly recommend this book. A wonderful discussion of life, death, ancestry, religion, and the changing cultural …moreIf you like magical realism, I would highly recommend this book. A wonderful discussion of life, death, ancestry, religion, and the changing cultural climate of the US. (less)

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Average rating 4.14  · 
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Mar 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This is arguably my all time favorite book. A masterpiece due to it's warmth and ability to take the reader back in time to his childhood in the poverty of native american Arizona circa 1950's. For me there is magic in this book. ...more
Andy Boren
Apr 15, 2008 rated it it was amazing
One of my all time favorite books
Mar 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Magic realism turned up to 11. Essentially just a coming of age (from the boy Beto to the grown up Alberto) but leaving out all the things that are usually in comings-of-ages(!) and concentrating on spiritual education (mainly from his grandparents). The characterisation (esp of Abuela and Abuelo, but extending to neighbour Vernetta and all the locals), the dialogue, the sense of place and the spiritual framework are all off the scale. Easiest 5 Stars I've awarded in ages. ...more
Jul 27, 2011 rated it liked it
I liked the book a lot better once I finished it. Up to the end, there is a lot that is confusing which is Vea's way of writing. He messes with time throughout, and that can be kind of confusing. I read it for a class, and the professor had some good advice: read the prologue AFTER you finish the book. ...more
Aug 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Truly one of the best novels I have ever read. It is written in the magical realism style of so many Latin American writers that I love (such as Isabel Allende). Unfortunately, it was reading one of her novels that I realized I could never really be a good writer...not like that.
Jul 26, 2017 rated it it was ok
There wasn't anything wrong with this; I just only thought it was ok.

My favorite aspect of this book is the culture. It feels organic, accessible, and engaging. There's also quite a few standout quotes to me.

Even though I did enjoy this it was dense and flowery which made it a bit hard to get into. The chapters were also too long for me. I also didn't connect with Beto like I wished I had. I really feel like I would have enjoyed this significantly more had it been more of a YA novel.

Overall, I
Andrea Badgley
Set in the late 1950s and early 1960s beyond the fizzled out end of Buckeye Road – beyond where asphalt turns to dirt after Buckeye Road has left Phoenix – La Maravilla is a novel of the displaced fringes who congregate along this sandy road in the Arizona desert: negritos and indios, prostitutes and transvestites, Arkies and Okies, and Beto, a young boy who lives with his Mexican healer grandmother and his Yaqui Indian grandfather. Beto’s mother has abandoned him there in her quest for a shiny, ...more
Craig Werner
Addition to the review below: Wanted to add that my favorite scene, one that speaks to the center of why I love Vea so much, is the one where the old Indios are talking to the young protagonist about the multitude of ways of living in the world. They're very balanced, accepting even of cultures they don't understand. But, at the end, they say, with good humor, "but our way is best." In the midst of the depressing chaos of American politics and horrific violence damn near everywhere, I can't help ...more
Kaye McSpadden
Jul 03, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-fiction
This was Vea's first novel, and what a stunning accomplishment it was. A beautifully written colorful, magical slice of American life. I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with the unique characters in this ragtag multi-ethnic community living on the fringe of the fringe of Phoenix during the 50s and 60s. Weaving the characters' myriad stories back and forth through time and space, Vea explores a number of themes including the emptiness of modern materialism, tensions (and perhaps similarities) be ...more
Beth Morgan
Mar 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Beth by: Maria Villaverde
One of my favorite books of all time. It is very multi-cultural, including Pimas, Papagos, and a Yaqui; Mexican-Americans; blacks; drag queens; mixed race couples; and if memory serves, even a Scot. It encompasses the gamut of human experience, from discrimination against folks because of whom they love, to prostitution, poverty, religion (from the traditional, Catholicism, to curanderismo, Yaqui spiritualism, and the tongue-in-cheek Protestantism of the African-American church, Clouds of Joy) a ...more
Jul 22, 2009 rated it liked it
3.5+ stars, maybe even 4 stars. Something about the story is captivating. Was required reading in an American Ethnic literature course I took, but I never got around to reading it until now. The book made me cry a little at the end. I think I will appreciate it a lot more the second time around.
Sylvia Rubio
Feb 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Very powerful and poetic. This book changed my life. I will no longer make presumptions of people I don't know. Everyone has a story and everyone is a miracle. ...more
L. C.
Apr 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Words cannot do this justice.
John Jardin
Jun 10, 2020 rated it liked it
The first 225 pages of this book feel like futile exposition—confusing and incomplete vignettes told through muddy chronology. That being said....the last 75 pages are absolutely exquisite. I was brought to tears at the novel’s conclusion, reminded of my own relationships to spirituality, ancestry, and kin. Occasionally, Véa’s philosophical musings can be to his own detriment. But as a very wise friend pointed out, sometimes you must come to the end of your story in order to recognize your own f ...more
Mandy Johnson
Aug 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is pretty much my favorite book of all time. Beautiful, personal, gritty, authentic... A gorgeous work of magical realism that draws one in on a window of the desert in a time and place on the edge... Lovelovelove it
Feb 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Wow! A strange story, told in quite a different way. There is a plot, but it’s not important. What is important is the painting of two different cultures living side by side, misunderstanding, coming to resolution. I really appreciated the bits of Spanish sprinkled throughout, added colour.
Kiprop Kimutai
Sep 27, 2020 rated it it was ok
I couldn't access Beto. He says very little. Being unable to access his point-of-view made me struggle with the book. The descriptions and the setting are done so well. I just couldn't find a perspective to hold onto. ...more
Apr 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
My favorite Alberto Véa book, hands down, and I love all of his writing.
Aug 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
My favorite book. A perfect book.
Nov 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A reread of a beautiful novel
Allison Wear
Apr 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A stunning experience of a novel.
Dec 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
It took me a long time to get through this book because I would get stuck on the beauty of a single sentence.
John Kitcher
Jan 19, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2015
This book is quite unbalanced and full of dead ends. One minute it is taking you this way, and another minute that. New developments - stories - within the story are advanced then left behind. That said, some beautiful sentences mixed in:

"For a hundred yard glowing cigarettes flickered in the dark, were stomped out and were lit elsewhere. Black and brown facial features flashed on then off as each Ohio blue tip flared then died."

No more Alfredo Véa for me.
Melisa Garcia
Mar 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Honestly this book made me tear up at the end. Weirdly, I decided to read the epilogue after I was done and it all made even more sense. It also has a very haunting effect after reading the epilogue. Clearly all the characters were there on the page with me. Vea Jr. you are a powerful magical writer.
Mar 18, 2015 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Lynda Jones
Feb 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Oh my, I thought this book was absolutely lovely. It is exactly the kind of book that I love ~ full of interesting characters, beautiful language, insight and wisdom, cross-cultural references and lots of magical realism. Finishing this book was like saying goodby to a dear friend. I think it truly changed my life.
Susan Eubank

Here are the questions discussed Reading the Western Landscape Book Club on Zoom on Wednesday, November 18, 2020 at 7:00 p.m. PDT.
Here are the questions discussed November 18, 2020:
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Somebody, please, explain to me the hypnotic effect this book seems to have on so many. I just don't see it. It is beyond slow, it is plodding. There are too many one~dimensional characters. I got two~thirds through and had enough! Hardly a marvel. ...more
Jun 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Wow, just beautiful!
At first the book was hard to follow since it goes back and forth from the past to the future, but the ending was perfectly written. I really enjoyed all these characters including Beto who represents America's future generations.
Oct 03, 2007 rated it it was amazing
this guy is an unsung hero of the literary world, as far as I'm concerned. his other books aren't quite as good, but still. he is really what you want Gabriel Garcia Marquez to be, when he isn't. ...more
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Alfredo Véa was born in Arizona and worked as a migrant farm worker as a child and a young man. He served in Vietnam and after his discharge worked a series of jobs, ranging from truck driver to carnival mechanic, as he put himself through law school. Now a practicing criminal defense attorney, Vea is also the author of two previous novels, La Maravilla and The Silver Cloud Cafe. He lives in San F ...more

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