Aurelia Ruíz, a young woman of mixed Mexican/Anglo parentage, never felt at home in San Antonio despite returning there when she discovered her gift for healing the sick. Whether she cured anyone of the cholera in 1843 she couldn’t truly say, but that she commanded a power that could influence people and meteorological events was without doubt. Joseph Kimmel – teacher of mathematics, former trapper, Jew – never lived in San Antonio, would never have abandoned his career in 1845 to journey from Missouri to San Antonio, had his brother not died and left a business there. Aurelia and Joseph meet somewhere in between.
The Texicans is a unique novel that’s nothing like a genre western. The bad guys aren’t always Indians, and those who’d normally have been good guys dish out mostly knee-jerk justice. Elements of magic realism blend with pioneer journeys and new beginnings in this lawless land.
Nina Vida’s characters are well-proportioned, and each of them possesses a welcome streak of unpredictability. When Joseph marries Katrin, an immigrant German girl whom he doesn’t like (and who doesn’t like him), to prevent her from being taken as a Comanche wife, the consequences of later meeting Aurelia would seem straightforward.
This is one of those novels I finished with a feeling of loss, but that’s a good sign: the characters seemed so true as to exceed the bounds of endpaper. And that’s always the reader’s best hope!