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Review: Our House on Hueco

Our House on Hueco
by Carlos Nicolás  Flores
Texas Tech University Press, 2006
ISBN: 0-89672-565-0

Finally ten-year-old Junior's family is moving out of the South El Paso barrio to a house of their own. Junior can't wait to explore the new place, the yard, the better neighborhood, and the mulberry tree out front. But when the family, which includes Junior's parents (one born in Puerto Rico, the other in Mexico) and brother Rafa, tour the place, the ever-practical father announces that they will be living in the subterráneo (the basement) while they rent out the upstairs to make some money. Just as strange, the new tenants are gringos, people Junior has no experience with whatsoever.

Set in the 1950's, Flores's young-adult novel takes a leisurely pace that picks up toward the end of the book when a real challenge to the family's autonomy comes not from the odd red-haired military  folks upstairs but from jealous co-workers of the dad. Junior's growing relationship with Tim and Kim, the tenants' children, segues from suspicion to friendship, while visits from Boogie, his old pal from the barrio, remind Junior of what they left behind: close ties but a harsh way of life. I enjoyed this novel, reading it in one day,  and especially appreciated the complex nature of the adult characters. All of them seem real, not perfect, and  Flores allows them what Grace Paley calls "the open destiny of life." Never preachy, Our House on Hueco chronicles the intersection of several cultures (Latino and Anglo, Army and civilian), the rise out of poverty, and some just plain old kids' fun.


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