Review written for ClubReading.com by Bill
Gods Go Begging is a wonderful novel about Jesse Pasadoble, a Vietnam
veteran, now working as a defense attorney in San Francisco. A couple of
current cases draw Jesse into a remarkable world of coincidence and ties
to the past.
This book has a great story, full of twists and turns, a cacophony of
emotion. Amplifying these amazing images, Alfredo Vea’s writing style is
strong, poetic, lyrical, and at times magical. The struggles of the main
character and his dealing with extraordinary events in his past lead us
into weaving, dreamlike worlds.
The author sets the stage in one of the most memorable book openings
I’ve ever read:
For a time, they both held on to their lives, gasping softly, whispering feverishly, and bleeding profusely, their two minds far, far away from the cruel, burrowing bullets that had left them mere seconds away from death. Face to face, they spoke their last words in crimson-colored breaths. Theirs was a withering language, one for which there are no living speakers.
Then, like warriors abandoned on the field, they lay in unearthly calm as the things of life deserted them. They had seen the mad commotion boiling in the air above them. In bemused silence, they heard the alarms, the screams, and the growing wail of sirens. Pronounced dead on a cold city sidewalk, they held on to each other as the gurney rolled from the cement to asphalt and into a waiting ambulance for a long, anonymous ride. In the end it was clear to every onlooker that neither dying woman would ever let go of the other. Leaves of lemon grass had drifted to the ground from the dress pocket of one of the women, marking their trail to the ambulance. Some of the sprigs and blades were bloodstained, adding spice to the liquid life that had trickled away.
I was very intrigued by the books dramatic portrayal of people dealing
with such complex and unforgettable pasts. It’s more than that, though.
How do we incorporate the different lives we lead into the present? The
Vietnam veteran whose mind is vividly separated by 30 years and
thousands of miles. Dealing with living in both the present and living
in a war, on a hill, so far in the past, but still very much part of the
To a lesser degree, I think many of us struggle with this. How many of
us are partly stuck in some distant past? Are you still partly living in
High School? That song on the radio that transports you back to the High
School lunch room. Or an old car … or a smell in the air that suddenly
takes you back to a particular beach in Puerto Rico.
And how often have we projected ourselves into the future … steadfastly
stating that, ‘I will never be like my parents!’ – ‘I’ll not make those
mistakes when I’m grown’. Then you hit 35 or 40 or 45 and suddenly, you
see your father in the mirror, or your mother’s voice comes out of your
mouth in a moment of frustration. Then it hits you … we are more than
the sum of our corporal parts.
I think everyone, has the memory of a moment, where they knew for
certain that there was more to them than just this body, this pile of
chemicals, this present … this now.
Maybe standing on the beach, waiting for the sun to rise. Then that
magical moment when the sun leaps from the horizon in an explosion of
color – as we spread our arms to capture every amazing bit of that
moment, we are also spreading our wings on an ethereal world, feeling
the splendor of another sun.
Is that why we seek out books and movies and music that move us? Are we
‘pan-consciously’ feeling our way through multiple times? Multiple
lives? Each with an array of ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters’. Other souls that
are also bound across distance and through years. Each of us linked to
that same place, that same time.
Well, who knows. But occasionally finding a book that makes me stop and
think about who I am and where I am … is why I read in the first place.
If you are like me and seek out beautifully written, emotionally
challenging books – don’t miss this one.
From the dedication page:
It is easy to know the beauty of inhuman things, sea, storm and Robinson Jeffers, The World’s Wonders
mountain; it is their soul and their meaning.
Humanity has its lesser beauty, impure and painful; we have to harden our hearts to bear it.
I have hardened my heart only a little; I have learned that happiness is important, but pain gives importance.
The use of tragedy: Lear becomes as tall as the storm he crawls in; and a tortured Jew became God.