In The Shadow of the Amates - A Romance Novel by Anne James Valades
Author(s): Anne James Valades
A novel about the Mexican Revolution and the legend of Amacuepantle and the Amate Tree.
Paperback: 276 pages
Publisher: Ash Tree Press; 1st ed edition (September 1999)
The legend of Amacuepantle tells of two lovers who steal away to spend a few precious moments together. Caught in the rain and in fear of nearby bandits, they are forced to remain immobile until their feet take root in the clay. With thir limbs entwined in a passionate embrace, they metamorphose into the elegant and long-lived amate tree.
"A smothered sigh, a moan, travels through the sky and reaches the heart of every man and woman who recognizes the sounds of love, fo the trees are called the lovers, los amantes."
Author Anne James Valades uses this ancient legend to frame her multi-generational novel of love and life and death. An intimate, passionate story beginning in the turbulent times of Emiliano Zapata and the Mexican Revolution and unfolding beneath of spreading branches of LOS AMATES outside a tiny village in Mexico, this is the author's remarkable debut as a novelist.
Anne James Valadés was born in England, to an American mother and a Commander in the Royal Navy. She spent her childhood in England until moving to Mexico City with her mother and sister. She attended school there, later working at the British Embassy. She taught English Literature and Speech in a bilingual high school in Mexico City and also designed and directed courses aimed at the prevention of drug abuse. She has been married 33 years to a Mexican businessman and they have two children and four grandchildren.
Ms Valades explains "there is a saying in Spanish that if you wish to live after death, you must plant a tree, write a book, have children, and whoever enters the garden of Amacuepantle is inspired to do all three."
Author - Editor Sol Stein calls her In the Shadow of the Amates "a work of remarkable originality."
Anne Valades currently divides her time between homes in La Jolla, California and Mexico City, with occasional weekends spent gazing at the trees in Amacuepantle.
In the Shadow of the Amates is written in the lyrical tone of folklore, Valades's accomplished debut novel evokes the atmosphere and history of Mexico. A legend of two lovers begins the volume: led astray by their passion, Suchipil and Nacapuli metamorphose into entwined amate trees and thereafter observe the lives of the villagers of Amatecalpa. From the middle of the Mexican Revolution in 1914 to the present day, many stories unfold under their watchful limbs, a litany of human endurance in spite of war, unrelenting poverty, political tyranny and injustice, accidents and illnesses are lived here and there by kindness, charity and good luck. Like the amates, Anne Valades is omniscient but nonjudgmental in her observations of the sad, unfulfilled but stoic lives she chronicles. A poor village boy shows promise of becoming a doctor, but commits a murder in the name of family honor. The local priest recognizes injustices but never takes action and eventually dies alone and far from his beloved village. A successful businessman becomes increasingly estranged from his family until his only companion is his vicious dog. Valades's prose shows the control and maturity of an experienced voice. The language is clear and lucid, the interlocking stories well thought out and paced. Yet as a multigenerational chronicle, the novel yearns for something raw, something rough, to break its polished surface. The resigned, tranquil tone hushes the passion that pulses in the characters and their plights. What could have been irresistibly fecund instead resists its own vibrancy. This comments come from Publishers Weekly.