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by Oscar Casares


The elderly Rosales brothers have been estranged for the past ten years, with the reason for their estrangement no longer clear to them.  Don Fidencio is 91 years old and a nursing home resident who identifies people by their infirmities: the man with a hole in his back, the one with the puffy cheeks, the one who is losing his mind, and all the women are Turtles.   Don Celestino, who is a diabetic widower, is twenty years younger than his brother, and they are all that remain of a large family. Celestino's housekeeper, Socorro, has become more than just a housekeeper to him, and has definite long term designs on the reluctant Celestino.

Fidencio would like to go to Mexico to see the Rancho where his grandfather was kidnapped by Indians many years ago, and with Socorro's urging, the brothers decide to make the trip.  However, Fedencio's daughter, who is his legal guardian, will not allow him to be removed from the nursing home, so Celestino sneaks him out, and they journey to Mexico accompanied by Socorro.

Casares has nailed the nursing home scenario in a poignant, insightful story.  It reads as humorous, but the underlying pain of the elderly, infirm nursing home residents is clear and heartbreaking, with incontinence, insomnia, and forgetfulness being the norm.

I saw shades of my own grandparents in the cantankerous Fidencio and the clueless Celestino as they travel across the border in search of their roots. Once reunited the brothers disagree more than they agree, and the four-day trip lays bare the personalities of both men. I sympathized with Socorro in her efforts to replace forgotten prescription medications for Fidencio, and in trying to keep track of the two old men as they search for the elusive El Rancho Capote.

Oscar Casares' characterization is outstanding and the story hypnotic as he shows us the importance of family ties, with respect and dignity toward the elderly. Very entertaining. I will be watching for more from this talented writer.

The Book

Little, Brown and Company / Hachette
August 10, 2009
0316159697 / 978-0316159692
Fiction / General
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The Reviewer

Beverly J. Rowe
Reviewed 2009
NOTE: Reviewer Beverly J. Rowe is's "Babes to Teens" columnist, covering topics related to reading ideas for the youth in the family.
© 2009