No Secret Too Small: A Novel of Old New Mexico

Written by Loretta Miles Tollefson
Review by Brodie Curtis

A family historical drama set in New Mexico in the late 1830s considers the upheaval to the lives of eight-and-a-half-year-old Alma and her younger brother Andrew when their parents’ harsh disagreement splits up the family. Alma and Andrew are living out a happy childhood at their mountainous homestead in the Moreno Valley where outdoor activities abound and the family receives regular visits from colorful-character trappers. But their mother learns that their father concealed his true ethnicity before they married and no explanation will satisfy her, so she takes the children away, determined to establish a new life away from her husband. She takes the children to populated areas, where others point out, sometimes cruelly, that their dark skin makes them different. Alma misses her father deeply and struggles to understand her mother’s motivations for tearing the family apart, raising a question which is at the heart of the story: is their mother taking a principled stand for truthfulness, harboring a secret dislike for the family’s remote lifestyle, or acting on her inherent racial prejudices? Eventually, Alma’s mother learns the weaving trade to try to assume the role of provider, but in doing so she places the family squarely in the path of a violent rebellion.

The author’s love of Nuevo Mexico history is evident in her deeply researched portrayals of historical figures and events from the rebellion, which took place there in the late 1830s. The prose is direct with a pleasing rhythm, though the narrative sometimes slows with repetition, such as when Alma agonizes over her parents’ dilemma, and in physical descriptions of period detail, which nevertheless are presented with care and a sense of authenticity.

The third book in the author’s Old New Mexico series will be an engaging read for those interested in early 19th-century New Mexican history.