Review written for ClubReading.com by Bill
Gods Go Begging is a wonderful novel about Jesse Pasadoble, a Vietnam veteran, now working as a defense attorney in San Francisco. A couple of current cases draw Jesse into a remarkable world of coincidence and ties to the past.
This book has a great story, full of twists and turns, a cacophony of emotion. Amplifying these amazing images, Alfredo Vea's writing style is strong, poetic, lyrical, and at times magical. The struggles of the main character and his dealing with extraordinary events in his past lead us into weaving, dreamlike worlds.
The author sets the stage in one of the most memorable book openings I've ever read:
For a time, they both held on to their lives, gasping softly, whispering feverishly, and bleeding profusely, their two minds far, far away from the cruel, burrowing bullets that had left them mere seconds away from death. Face to face, they spoke their last words in crimson-colored breaths. Theirs was a withering language, one for which there are no living speakers.
Then, like warriors abandoned on the field, they lay in unearthly calm as the things of life deserted them. They had seen the mad commotion boiling in the air above them. In bemused silence, they heard the alarms, the screams, and the growing wail of sirens.
Pronounced dead on a cold city sidewalk, they held on to each other as the gurney rolled from the cement to asphalt and into a waiting ambulance for a long, anonymous ride. In the end it was clear to every onlooker that neither dying woman would ever let go of the other. Leaves of lemon grass had drifted to the ground from the dress pocket of one of the women, marking their trail to the ambulance. Some of the sprigs and blades were bloodstained, adding spice to the liquid life that had trickled away.
I was very intrigued by the books dramatic portrayal of people dealing with such complex and unforgettable pasts. It's more than that, though. How do we incorporate the different lives we lead into the present? The Vietnam veteran whose mind is vividly separated by 30 years and thousands of miles. Dealing with living in both the present and living in a war, on a hill, so far in the past, but still very much part of the present.
To a lesser degree, I think many of us struggle with this. How many of us are partly stuck in some distant past? Are you still partly living in High School? That song on the radio that transports you back to the High School lunch room. Or an old car … or a smell in the air that suddenly takes you back to a particular beach in Puerto Rico.
And how often have we projected ourselves into the future … steadfastly stating that, 'I will never be like my parents!' - 'I'll not make those mistakes when I'm grown'. Then you hit 35 or 40 or 45 and suddenly, you see your father in the mirror, or your mother's voice comes out of your mouth in a moment of frustration. Then it hits you … we are more than the sum of our corporal parts.
I think everyone, has the memory of a moment, where they knew for certain that there was more to them than just this body, this pile of chemicals, this present … this now.
Maybe standing on the beach, waiting for the sun to rise. Then that magical moment when the sun leaps from the horizon in an explosion of color - as we spread our arms to capture every amazing bit of that moment, we are also spreading our wings on an ethereal world, feeling the splendor of another sun.
Is that why we seek out books and movies and music that move us? Are we 'pan-consciously' feeling our way through multiple times? Multiple lives? Each with an array of 'brothers' and 'sisters'. Other souls that are also bound across distance and through years. Each of us linked to that same place, that same time.
Well, who knows. But occasionally finding a book that makes me stop and think about who I am and where I am … is why I read in the first place. If you are like me and seek out beautifully written, emotionally challenging books - don't miss this one.
From the dedication page:
It is easy to know the beauty of inhuman things, sea, storm and mountain; it is their soul and their meaning.
Humanity has its lesser beauty, impure and painful; we have to harden our hearts to bear it.
I have hardened my heart only a little; I have learned that happiness is important, but pain gives importance.
The use of tragedy: Lear becomes as tall as the storm he crawls in; and a tortured Jew became God.
- Robinson Jeffers, The World's Wonders