The Shrine at Altamira

John L'Heureux

Published by Grove Press
ISBN 10: 0802136559 / ISBN 13: 9780802136558
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Very Good: Cover and pages show some wear from reading and storage. May have light creases on the cover and binding. Bookseller Inventory #

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Synopsis: Now available in a Grove paperback edition, The Shrine at Altamira by John L'Heureux has the simple shape and powerful impact of Greek tragedy. When Maria Corazon Alvarez meets Russell Whitaker at a school dance, she sees his blue eyes and solid American name as a ticket out of the ghetto into a better life. They dance, they touch, they tumble into a love so strong and elemental it should last forever. But gradually the balance shifts; he loves her more, she loves him less. When their son is born, Maria gives him all her love and Russell is pushed aside. Wild, obsessed, Russell runs mad and his desperate love becomes a fire that consumes them all.

From Kirkus Reviews: The latest by the author of An Honorable Profession (1991), etc., takes its cue from the most gruesome of headlines--the sort of story that forces us to contemplate the nature of evil. But L'Heureux's prologue, with its talk of ``we'' (i.e., civilized readers) and ``they'' (i.e., those lower-class types who commit such heinous crimes), suggests how difficult it is for him to get inside his characters, to transcend sociological explanations for their behavior. Mexican-American Maria Alvarez, a dark teenaged beauty, thinks that blond and blue-eyed Russell Whitaker is her ticket out of the ``hot and dirty and hopeless'' San Jose ghetto. But Russell, the son of a violent alcoholic, is incapable of breaking the cycle of abuse that has literally scarred him for life. A reluctant husband, Russell soon develops an all-consuming passion for his bride, finding ``salvation'' in her eyes. When a son arrives and Maria turns her full attention to the beautiful boy, Russell becomes ``weak and needy,'' given to drunken outbursts. Before she allows herself to join in the decline, Maria loses weight, goes back to school, gets a good job, and files for divorce. Meanwhile, Russell hits bottom, living on the streets until his obsession with his ex- wife leads to an act so horrifying that we'd reject it as implausible if it hadn't in fact happened in recent times--Russell, in a fit of trancelike anger, sets his young son on fire. From there on, the novel balances the sad tale of young John's long and painful recovery with the predictably awful experiences Russell endures in jail. A number of side stories clutter a novel that already leaps forward too quickly in time. And the big questions about guilt, salvation, God's will, etc., all seem grafted onto a melodramatic (though gripping) plot. The ``terrible'' thought L'Heureux warns us about is not all that original--that evil has a human face and is committed by ordinary people. Despite the banal notions and bland prose, the incendiary subject makes this novel both painful and poignant. -- Copyright ©1992, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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Title: The Shrine at Altamira
Publisher: Grove Press
Binding: Paperback
Book Condition: VERY GOOD

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John L'Heureux
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