Mexican Autumn is a short story collection that reads like a novel, full of intriguing characters and trademark charm and wit from author John Howard Reid.
The first sixteen shorts are inter-related and take place in a true Mexican fishing village called Bahia de los Angeles. Bahia de los Angeles lies 350 miles south of the US border along the shores of the Sea of Cortes on the East Coast of Baja, California. The Mexican government has closed the area to fishing, forcing the village to rely on other sources of income—that new source being “el Gringo” or the American tourist. This is where the fun begins as Mr. Reid observes the conflict of opposing cultures—the laid back native Mexicans and the hurried American visitors and everyone’s need to understand each other.
I enjoyed all the stories so I’ll look at some of the main characters:
· The village physician, who is also curator of the town’s mining museum, whose lack of tolerance for American tourists is as clear as his need for their cash;
· The doctor’s good friend, the town mayor and owner of the Miraculous Superstore (the village’s largest store) who is happy to help his fellow villagers, but expects their loyal business and votes come election time;
· The silver-haired, aristocratic land owner and confirmed bachelor who is always on hand to lend his advice in village matters;
· The devoted Catholic, town gossip, and proprietress of the Refugio del Sol motel and cantina who is ever so grateful for the retired American priest’s arrival in the village;
· The village’s only policeman; and
· The young beauty determined to leave Bahia de los Angeles for a better life even if it means marrying the first wealthy American who asks for her hand.
Two other stories complete the collection. However, Zone of Silence and The Feast of Gonzaga do not take place in Bahia de los Angeles, nor do they include any of the aforementioned characters.
The stories are presented in chronological order and stand alone well. What I found unique is that each short could be considered and read as a chapter in a novel. Reid has obviously spent time in the village as his descriptions paint a clear picture of a village too small for a church with dilapidated buildings, rough yet paved roads, and a stray dog problem. The characters shine throughout the book, setting the stories apart from other short fiction, and highlighting an author at the top of his craft. The quirky banter and authentic Mexican slang used between the villagers makes this book a treat to read. Whether you enjoy Mexican Autumn as a novel or as a group of short stories it will not disappoint. Highly Recommended.
John Howard Reid
Lulu.com (February 9, 2006)