“Randy Lopez Goes Home”
By Rudolfo Anaya
University of Oklahoma Press
Reviewed by Luís Torres
(Eds Note: “Rudolfo” is correct)
Veteran writer Rudolfo Anaya has written a little gem of a novel that takes readers on a magical allegorical journey that artfully explores the Big Questions of who we are, where did we come from, what is our essence as human beings and where are we going. And it’s done in a manner that isn’t at all ponderous, given the weightiness of the issues, but is done with warmth, humor and deliciously bittersweet storytelling. It is his twenty-first book, but it is likely to be regarded as his ultimate, triumphal tour de force.
The just published book is “Randy Lopez Goes Home.” It is a compact, complex and thoroughly engaging treasure of a novel. With eloquent simplicity it tells the tale of a man from a tiny, bucolic village in the mountains of New Mexico who is on a journey, his ultimate quest really. It is part fable, part spiritual meditation, part parable. And a thoroughly enjoyable read throughout. It is a triumph of elegant storytelling. And brimming with wickedly funny plays on words and literary nods to everything from telenovelas to Greek mythology, to the Bible and to today’s headline-screaming tabloids. It is a playful yet thought-provoking mélange of literary tradition and popular politics and culture. It’s an ambitious effort, but Anaya pulls it off seamlessly and to great effect.
It’s a delight.
Anaya, who is perhaps best known for his groundbreaking novel of Chicano life titled “Bless Me Ultima,” has seemingly summoned all of his skill, experience and wit in order to craft this masterfully written little book. “Bless Me Ultima” brought him fame and literary credibility. It has become the Chicano equivalent of Alex Haley’s “Roots” to many Chicanos. But to call Anaya a “Chicano writer” is a bit like calling Faulkner a “white writer.” Anaya’s work, particularly as evidenced in this marvelous new novel, is irrefutably transcendent.
It is the story of Randy, who, despite what Thomas Wolfe warned, is attempting to go home again. But where is home? Is it merely the tiny town of Agua Bendita where he was born and lived with loving parents and compassionate neighbors long ago? Or is “home” something more metaphorically difficult to reach? More difficult to define. Along the way Randy meets quixotic and sometimes-surreal characters who offer veiled directions about how to “get home.” They are fantastical, allegorical figures who sometimes seem ghost-like, but are also very much flesh-and-bones. Randy has a number of head-scratching encounters as he heads toward some sort of destination.
And the reader begins to scratch his or her head as well. Is Randy “real”? Is he alive? Is he in a place between “here” and “there”? What is “here” after all? It’s a metaphysical quest that Anaya invents and probes in the most entertaining and satisfying fashion. Layer–by-layer storytelling at its best.
Luís Torres, is a journalist and writer in Pasadena, California. He is at work on a biography of educational reformer Vahac Mardirosian.