A review of

Amigoland

by Oscar Casares

Central question: Is memory a matter of faith, and brotherhood a matter of practice?
Format: 368 pp., cloth; Size: 5 ½" x 8 ¾"; Price: $23.99; Publisher: Little, Brown; Editor: Asya Muchnick; Print run: 25,000; Book design: Allison J. Warner. Joel Holland hand-lettered the title; Does the title refer to Amigoland, the shopping mall, which existed in Brownsville, Texas, from 1974 to 2001?: no; Hours author spent on Mexican buses: eighty; Representative sentence: “The showers and sponge baths didn’t count as touching since the aides were wearing gloves and working so routinely that at times it felt as though he were going through a car wash with a half dozen other old men waiting in their wheelchairs behind him.”

Taking amusement, even inspiration, in the stubbornness of the elderly is predicated on a rather dark notion. Old person, you are on your way out. There’s no point arguing against your notions, our laughter would say if it had to explain itself, because at your age, notions are not worth changing.

This fatalism is not lost on the two estranged brothers in Amigoland—stubbornness is the moon that carves the tides. It drives the aging Rosales brothers apart, where a sense of fusty fatalism keeps them. Both live in Brownsville, a Texan town on the Mexican border (and the eponymous setting for Casares’s charismatic 2003 story collection). But they haven’t spoken in ten years. The younger Don Celestino, recently widowed, scratches chores over the confines of his calendar lines. His ninety-one-year-old brother, Don Fidencio, has been committed to Amigoland nursing home, where, life being served to him, his memory starts to slip. He engages himself mainly by policing the punctuality of the meal and medicine carts.

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

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—Francesca Mari

Francesca Mari has written for the New York Times Book Review and the New Republic.

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