Book Review: Randy Lopez Goes Home by Rudolfo Anaya

by DerdriuMarriner

Randy Lopez Goes Home concerns an expatriate's return home. Rudolfo Anaya's novella considers memory's lies and truths. It converges time into backward, current or forward options.

Adventures join adventurers headed to St. Peter's Gate

Randy Lopez Goes Home assumes unique importance in New Mexican contributions to Chicana and Chicano culture in the United States of America. It brings to critics and readers the last pre-publication interaction between New Mexico's living treasure, Rudolfo Anaya (born October 30, 1937), and his beloved wife and best friend, Patricia Anne Lawless (1924 - January 5, 2010). The 153-page, 22-chapter novella commemorates actions, characters, and dialogues whose telling results from a loving anthologist, editor, essayist, historian, novelist, playwright, poet, and storyteller creating for and reading to his terminally ill wife one last adventure before her passage through St. Peter's Gate. It describes an expatriate's return on October 31, Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead).

Villagers of northern New Mexico honor tradition against a backdrop of beautiful and stark landscapes:

northwestern New Mexico's Bisti Badlands/De-Na-Zin Wilderness Area with unusual rock formations and Native American sacred places
San Juan County, northwestern New Mexico
San Juan County, northwestern New Mexico

Dead and living alike know something, not everything

Northern villagers entertain notions of: 

  • Agua Bendida ("Blessed Water") as Eden's long-lost Gihon or Pishon River; and 
  • Saint Joseph (died July 20, A.D. 18) as New Mexico's hollyhocks (Alcea spp) gift-bearer. 

They nevertheless find Anglo, Hispanic, and Pueblo folklore and history cross-fired into the forty-seventh state, as epitomized by: 

  • Miss Libriana, a Presbyterian first-grade schoolteacher, giving Agapita's and Juan Diego Lopez de la Cañada de Juan del Oso's son Mateo Melquiades Zacarías the Anglo name Randy; and
  • the re-named Aqua Vendida ("Sold Water") and Hot Springs.

Randy therefore gets the idea of experiencing extra-backwater reality through: 

  • naval service at Fort Bliss; 
  • styling hair in Juárez;
  • taking night classes; and 
  • working in bookstores, construction, fast food, and landscaping. 

Among nature's remedies familiar to Randy Lopez are anthropomorphic, hallucinogenic mandrake (Mandragora) roots.

anthropomorphic mandrake root (right) alongside partial view of Mandragora page in Tacuinem Sanitatis (1474)
anthropomorphic mandrake root (right) alongside partial view of Mandragora page in Tacuinem Sanitatis (1474)

Ghost mourned by time's winds loses his way

Randy has enough savings to buy a used laptop. He is on the way to Santa Fe to show a publisher My Life Among the Gringos when the express train hits a cow and sends the laptop out the window. He and his dachshund Oso ("Bear") journey on foot to the haunted canyon whose entrance keeper Todos Santos ("All Saints") provides a sway-back mare. He knows that: 

  • anti-abortionist Angelica attends to the world's abused children;
  • aromatherapist Lilith bemoans marigolds, flowers of the dead, replacing hollyhocks in dying amaranth, amaryllis, corn, cucumber, melon, pumpkin, tomato, tulip gardens; 
  • Padre Polonio ("Father Polonius") confuses him with Levi Rael's sons; and
  • wise woman Unica ("Unique") forages for mandrake (Mandragora spp) roots. 

New Mexico's floral landscapes cherish hollyhocks (Alcea spp) as spiritual heritage of gift-giver Saint Joseph:

"Black Hollyhock Blue Larkspur 1930" by Georgia O'Keeffe (November 15, 1887 – March 6, 1986)
Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe, north central New Mexico
Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe, north central New Mexico

Jesus moves on water, everybody else on bridges

Before the dead's dance, Randy learns that:

  • Pedro Peñasco ("Peter Rocks") drowns nobody in Ríos de las Golondrinas, de los Tecolotes y del Oso ("Rivers of swallows, owls, and bear");
  • prostitute Mabelline epitomizes kind-heartedness; and
  • village mayor Todospedo ("dead-drunk") favors time-past travel. 

Ambulances merge upon train victims as Randy weighs life against afterlife. Carpentry-savvy José's ("Joseph") and María's ("Mary") Mexican immigrants nudge Randy toward bridge-building -- with Mountain of the Singing Trees' pines (Pinus ponderosa) -- over the River of Life to Sofia ("Wisdom") of the Lambs. 

Randy Lopez Goes Home offers cultural, educational, and philosophical engagement through: 

  • Rudolfo Anaya's text; and 
  • University of Oklahoma Press's 2013-released Chicana & Chicano Visions of the Américas series volume 12. 

Randy Lopez Goes Home by Rudolfo Anaya

When he was young, Randy Lopez left his village in northern New Mexico to seek his fortune.
Rudolfo Anaya writings


My special thanks to:

  • Talented artists and photographers/concerned organizations who make their fine images available on the Internet;
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University for superior on-campus and on-line resources.

Randy Lopez's ends his expatriate journey by returning to his roots on the Day of the Dead, festival and ritual traditions, tracing back anciently to pre-Columbian cultures, for remembering the departed.

Day of the Dead ofrenda ("offerings) in Albuquerque commemorate women killed in Juarez, Mexico area.
Day of the Dead ofrenda ("offerings) in Albuquerque commemorate women killed in Juarez, Mexico area.

Sources Consulted

Anaya, Rudolfo. 2011. The Old Man's Love Song. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, Volume 9 Chicana & Chicano Visions of the Américas series edited by Robert Con Davis-Undiano. 

Hopkins, Gerard Manley. 1877. "The Windhover."

"Patricia Anne Anaya." Obituary. Boston, MA: Tributes, Inc. Retrieved March 3, 2015. 

  • Available at:

"Rudolfo Anaya: Brief Bio." UNM: University Libraries > Research Guides > Biography. Retrieved March 3, 2015.

  • Available at:

U.S. Census Bureau. (1940). “Patricia Lawless.” Department of Commerce -- Bureau of the Census. Sixteenth Census of the United States: 1940 Population Schedule.

  • Retrieved for Elkhart City, Taloga Township, Morton County, Kansas, Household 227 Line 28 via and on March 3, 2015. 

Wolfe, Thomas. 1929. Look Homeward, Angel: A Story of the Buried Life

the end which is also the beginning
the end which is also the beginning

Full Moon Rises Over Landscape in De-Na-Zin Wilderness, Bisti Badlands, New Mexico: image by Karl Lehmann

Full Moon Rises Over Landscape in De-Na-Zin Wilderness, Bisti Badlands, New Mexico, USA

Me and my purrfectly purrfect Maine coon kittycat, Augusta "Gusty" Sunshine

Gusty and I thank you for reading this article and hope that our product selection interests you; Gusty Gus receives favorite treats from my commissions.
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
Updated: 03/03/2015, DerdriuMarriner
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