María's Purgatorio. By Patrick Fontes. Edited by Leyla Namazie. ISBN: 978-1523315154. $16.95
Sex. Drugs. Violence. Speaking in tongues. Set in the sweltering summer months in Fresno, California, María seeks purpose, identity and some semblance of family among the gritty underground niches of society. Not content with who she is, or where she came from, María delves into various groups yearning for fulfillment in a dystopian landscape, one very real for anyone acquainted with the underbelly of cities like Fresno. Not satisfied with drugs and sex, María undergoes a spiritual conversion after meeting evangelists from a Pentecostal church. At last she is at home, with The Family, her new spiritual family, which offers more than her biological familia—so María thinks. In the end, her newfound life is not what it seems, and María at last finds happiness and contentment in a place she previously scorned. Throughout the book María is tormented between memories of her Abuela and her journey to find peace.
When we talk about diversity, we seem to focus on an ideal
world, a utopian realm, where different people of good will and hearts willingly
share a common life and destiny. We forget that poverty and destitution are thrusted
upon different people and corral them into low-income neighborhoods of cities,
such as Fresno, to share the streets and fate with no escape. They become the great
equalizers as they impact people regardless of race. Patrick Fontes’ Purgatory is a color-blind
inferno, where Latinos, Whites and Blacks, are forced to live next to each
other. It is a diversity that shares common themes, poverty, drug addiction,
lack of education, living at the edge of the law, and no hope. Patrick Fontes
skillfully brings us these characters ruled by self-interest, addiction, amorality,
and fear. Once you begin the book, you will not put it down until the last page.
“A Dante-esque novel set in modern day Fresno, that is smart as fuck without being pretentious. The Fresno of Patrick Fontes’s María’s Purgatorio is not for the faint of heart: On the surface, the city is a multi-layered purgatory and inferno of lost souls who writhe in heat and despair with their eyes sewn shut, unable to acknowledge or have empathy for their suffering, or the suffering of others. Some find solace in cruelty, others in drugs, or in the opiate of religion, or completely retreating from the world. María must climb out of Fresno’s hell-worlds in order to discover self-reliance and community within her family and heritage. A smart and pungent first novel, the reader sweats and cringes with the narrative of Fresno’s abyss; however, finds within it things and people who are beautiful and worth remembering.”
Nicole Henares, poet, educator.
“María is as disturbing an evangelist as she is a slut in the pit of numb-minded America. Fontes’ MARÍA’S PURGATORIO for its detailed world building and horrific underbelly of truths about Central California’s obvious dark clash between sinner and sin. . . As for inspiration . . . I’m in love with literature and writing again.”
Nicholas Belardes, author of Gaspar, and St. Augustine the Starfighter.
“The titular María walks a knife edge between virtue and sin in a generation born to a fallen reality. A distractingly attractive young Latina punk rocker, she also navigates a world gone from William Saroyan’s wholesome farm town to a Blade Runner-like dystopian sprawl when nobody was looking. A brass tacks literary portrayal of young adulthood in the summer heat of Fresno, California post millennium.”
Joe Donohoe, publisher of Speciousspecies Magazine
Patrick Fontes grew up in a working class home in Fresno, California. During the Mexican Revolution Patrick’s great-grandfather, Jesús Luna, a Yaqui, immigrated from Chihuahua to Central California. In 1920 Jesús built a Chihuahua-style adobe house in Fresno. Nearly one hundred years later it is still the center of Patrick’s cherished Chicano identity. Other influences include 1980s punk, Mexican folk Catholicism, photography, Latin (the ancient language), and 19th century Russian literature. Currently Patrick is a Ph.D.C. in history at Stanford University. His research involves Mexico-U.S.A. transnational history, Latin American religion, and the Criminalization of Chicano culture. Patrick’s poetry has appeared in
The Más Tequila Review, the Acentos Review, The James Franco Review, Silver Birch Press, as well the online poetry site La Bloga.