Lionel Garcia believes that no one should read a short story and be the same person afterward. The fifteen stories in this collection have that effect. They will affect each reader differently but leave none untouched. These stories focus on South Texas' Hispanic culture most frequently--but not always. It is a world Garcia knows well, and he portrays its complexities with a clearly realistic and often bemused eye.
In some stories he sees his subjects with a gentle vision that stops just short of sentimentality--in "Alone," Constancia, lonely after years of divorce, nearly throws herself at the plumber, with surprising results. In "Always Verbena," Beatrice and Antonio are reunited after tragedy and years of cowardice have separated them. Sometimes Garcia veers off into the hilariously funny, such as "West Texas Cowboys," where inept cowboys use dynamite to blast postholes in a mountain--and blow the top off the mountain. Or the title story where an insane uncle, about to be taken to an institution by the sheriff, is protected by his guardian and aunt. The final scene becomes a wild tangle of people tripping over one another, all searching for the missing uncle. Sometimes Garcia's vision of his world is grimly realistic--in "Girl" a bipolar woman indulges in a monologue as she recounts her bizarre marital history and sex life. But Garcia's imagination can also lead him to the surreal--in "The Wedding," a stranger stumbles into a home where a woman keeps her husband prisoner in his bedroom. The story ends with a surprise twist. Some stories demonstrate the confusion between Hispanic and Anglo cultures--in "Mammogram," River Oaks meets illegal alien in a sketch that will make you smile. In "The Sergeant" the confusion takes on more serious overtones because the Latin protagonist believes everything American is perfect. The truth is a bitter lesson. Garcia writes in his introduction that short stories should begin and end, "in a flash." These stories do.
Lionel G. Garcia's short stories and novels have won the PEN Discovery Prize, the Texas Institute of Letters Jesse Jones Award for Fiction, the Fiction Prize of the Year, and many other awards. He lives in Seabrook, Texas.