Review: Retablos

Retablos sits at a sweet spot between a short story collection and a more direct memoir. Octavio Solis is verbally painting these economical scenes from his childhood as tiny devotions that he shares. He says this fairly directly in the introduction, making the title allusion explicit. It’s an interesting framing of the memoir and works well for me.

Solis is a playwright of some renown which for me manifests itself in both his strength of judgement in picking interesting scenes to depict and his occasional surrender to his writerly instincts in dramatizing them. I think where those lines are is largely a matter of taste and, overall, Retablos works for me. I understand that it won’t work for everyone. This may be the price for taking chances and I endorse it.

Solis’s life and the setting both emerge as more of the devotions unfold. I came away with a great feeling of the texture of both. The setting – El Paso – is a timely choice given our current preoccupation with immigration and the southern border. To me the place is rich enough to be fascinating without the contemporary fascination.

Strongly Recommended.

Comments are closed.