Synopses & Reviews
Acclaimed author Alex Espinoza, whose writing Lisa See has called “fresh, magical, beautiful, and evocative,” returns with a captivating, unforgettable novel set in Hollywood’s Golden Age, as a gifted and determined young man leaves Mexico—and everything he’s ever known—to follow his dreams.
Growing up in a rural village at the height of the Mexican Revolution, Diego León has many first loves: singing, dancing, and hearing the stories of his ancestors, the P’urhépecha. But when tragedy strikes, young Diego is sent to the city to live with his aristocratic grandparents, who insist he forget his roots and groom him to take over the family business. Under pressure to enter a profession—and a life—for which he cares nothing, and haunted by the violence once again erupting all around him, Diego flees his war-torn country to forge his own destiny.
Diego arrives in Hollywood in 1927, when silent films are giving way to talkies, Prohibition is in full swing, and “Latin lover” types are sought out even as they are looked down upon. Working his way up in the movie business with talent and ingenuity, Diego soon figures out that getting one’s face on the silver screen has as much to do with what goes on behind the camera as what goes on in front of it. But the closer Diego comes to stardom, the more he finds that the past is not so easily escaped, as he is drawn again and again to the painful legacy of history and the wounds of his homeland.
A sweeping, sensual novel of love, ambition, and identity, The Five Acts of Diego León bears all the marks of a classic Hollywood story: romance, betrayal, glamour, and an underdog hero to root for till the end.
Praise for Alex Espinoza’s Still Water Saints
“[A] stunning debut . . . It feels like magic.”—Los Angeles
“Alex Espinoza’s Still Water Saints is a cycle of tales as perfect as the beads of a rosary. One alone is a little miracle; the whole together is capable of renewing one’s faith in new fiction.”—Sandra Cisneros
“Elegantly crafted . . . If magic is in short supply here among the new housing developments and the strip malls, faith in every incarnation is thriving.”—The Washington Post
“Enchanting . . . [Still Water Saints] does not ask us to suspend disbelief even while it bewitches. . . . It plunges you into a community that reminds us that all communities, no matter what their ethnic makeup, experience many of the same dilemmas and challenges.”—San Francisco Chronicle
“[Espinoza] treats us to a rich, episodic gem of human foible, need, greed, beauty, and weirdness. . . . His style is ominous, layered and clean—reminiscent of a Hieronymus Bosch painting. Still Water Saints is charming. . . . Its whimsy has teeth.”—Los Angeles Times Book Review
"This lackluster historical from Espinoza (Still Water Saints) has neither inspired writing nor sophisticated characterizations in its unoriginal smalltown-boy-goes-to-Hollywood plot. The prologue suggests something more involved; as young Mexican Diego Leon witnesses his father leave town in 1911, he 'could not imagine the many faces he would be called to wear a soldier, a thief, a lover, a villain, a king, a husband, a father.' But the titular five acts do not reflect a renaissance career; instead, inspired by a neighbor to practice orating, when Leon comes of age, he ditches his fiancÃ©e for the movie business. His struggle to become an actor couldn't be more clichÃ©d he takes menial jobs, betrays a friend to get an audition and most readers will struggle to care how things end up. Four chapters in, Espinoza gives a glimpse of what might have been, with an exciting description of the turmoil in 1926 Mexico, when President Elias Calles enforced a constitutional provision 'stripping the church of much of its power,' triggering a wave of savage violence. A novel describing how the Mexicans who didn't abandon their country to pursue selfish goals weathered the turbulence would have been much more interesting than this one. Agent: Elyse Cheney." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Alex Espinoza was born in Tijuana, Mexico. He came to the United States with his family at the age of two and grew up in suburban Los Angeles. Author of the novel Still Water Saints, he received an MFA from the University of California, Irvine. A recipient of the Margaret Bridgman Fellowship in Fiction at the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, Espinoza is currently an associate professor of English at California State University, Fresno.