We all strive for a place to belong. Whether that means a familiar hometown or simply a space to call your own, for the multiple array of character’s in Alex Espinoza’s debut novel ‘Still Water Saints,’ this sense of belonging is found in a mystical botanica that enchants its customers with as much promise for solace as it does for miracles.
As a native of Southern California, Espinoza sets his story in the fictional town of Agua Mansa with sights and sounds that vaguely resemble the familiar surroundings of the Inland Empire, where he grew up. The writer commented at last Thursday’s UC Irvine Bookstore Series that most of his inspiration came from driving around his childhood home of La Puente, Calif.
‘Still Water Saints’ is a collection of narratives that focuses on 72-year-old widow and botanica owner Perla Portillo. Magical remedies bring different characters to Perla, who provides them with potions and relics along with advice for those seeking sanctuary from death, identity crises and political persecution. There is Azucar, a transgender drag queen seeking a sex operation, but also finding a chance for motherhood; Rodrigo Zamora, an illegal teenage immigrant from Tijuana escaping from the law; Shawn, a rambunctious degenerate who wants to stop his girlfriend from a potential affair and many other characters. Each one is magnetically pulled to Botanica Osh