The Flower in the Skull by Kathleen Alcala'.....I never would have picked this book just browsing and I would have missed out. That is the beauty of walking to the shelf and picking the next three books in line alphabetically....I find gems that I would have otherwise missed. Here's a review, rather unflattering really, but some else's take on it: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/1998/07/19/RV15149.DTL&type=printable
This reviewer thinks the novel is "just bones" and "clunky and hard"...while I think that the spareness of the language and our inability to "get close" to the characters is exactly what those characters feel...that no one can get close to them, that they must protect themselves.
Here is a passage that spoke to me...the family is separated and after a long time the brother (Beto) and his sister are reunited and share a meal....the author's description of Beto:
"Beto was proud to own no furniture. Things came between people and the truth. By remaining clean, pared down, a man who ate what was offered him and slept where he could, Beto's vision remained clear. He was a man who could discern the true nature of things, whether they were good or evil, whether they meant something or nothing, whether or not they would have importance to someone in the future. Beto, by remaining free of things, could tell their true names (Alcala 72).
This spoke to me because for months now I have been purging and paring down and trying to eliminate "stuff" that is JUST stuff, things we do not need, things we do not use. I think it might be true that things come between people and truth.