A visionary neo-Western blend of magical realism, mystery, and horror, Valley of Shadows sheds light on the dark past of injustice, isolation, and suffering along the US-Mexico border.
Solitario Cisneros thought his life was over long ago. He lost his wife, his family, even his country in the late 1870s when the Rio Grande shifted course, stranding the Mexican town of Olvido on the Texas side of the border. He’d made his brooding peace with retiring his gun and badge, hiding out on his ranch, and communing with horses and ghosts. But when a gruesome string of murders and kidnappings ravages the town, pushing its volatile mix of Anglo, Mexican, and Apache settlers to the brink of self-destruction, he feels reluctantly compelled to confront both life, and the much more likely possibility of death, yet again.
As Solitario struggles to overcome not only the evil forces that threaten the town but also his own inner demons, he finds an unlikely source of inspiration and support in Onawa, a gifted and enchanting Apache-Mexican seer who champions his cause, daring him to open his heart and question his destiny.
As we follow Solitario and Onawa into the desert, we join them in facing haunting questions about the human condition that are as relevant today as they were back then: Can we rewrite our own history and shape our own future? What does it mean to belong to a place, or for a place to belong to a people? And, as lonely and defeated as we might feel, are we ever truly alone?
Through luminous prose and soul-searching reflections, Rudy Ruiz transports readers to a distant time and a remote place where the immortal forces of good and evil dance amidst the shadows of magic and mountains.
Ruiz (The Resurrection of Fulgencio Ramirez) offers an engrossing blend of historical fiction, ghost story, and mystery. Mexicans, Anglos, and Apaches live uneasily together in the town of Olvido, Tex., in 1883, on land that was once split between Mexico and Texas but is now under American control. The town's sheriff, his wife, and older son are murdered, and the rest of his children are abducted. Townsmen ask Solitario Cisneros, Olvido's previous lawman, to investigate. Solitario, who can see the dead, refuses because he would miss out on his brief nighttime encounters with the spirit of his late wife. He also fears he would be made a scapegoat if a culprit can't be identified, given his Mexican ethnicity. After a plea from the ghost of the murdered boy changes his mind, he enlists a young Mexican Apache seer, Onawa, to help him find the missing children. They rescue Tolbert's surviving son without finding his two missing daughters, and return to Olvido to learn another family has been killed. As the body count rises, a romance simmers between Solitario and Onawa, and they face Olvido's entrenched prejudices. Here Ruiz slips into clichés, particularly in describing Onawa's attraction to Cisneros, but he employs elements of magic realism to haunting effect, and the depictions of human cruelty and injustice are unflinching. Despite some bumps, this has its rewards.