The Soledad Crucifixion
What novel that opens with the voluntary Good Friday crucifixion of a Catholic priest in the mountains of northern New Mexico Territory in 1897 would not instantly captivate its readers? The Soledad Crucifixion does exactly that in the beautifully haunting style of Nancy Wood, the Santa Fe author whose numerous works of fiction, poetry, and photography have chronicled the life and culture of the Pueblo peoples in the “Land of Enchantment.”
Enchantment is at the heart of this novel as Father Lorenzo Soledad, a man ambivalent about Church dogma, a man who flouts the vows of chastity, a man who shot and killed his prostitute mother, comes to the little town of Camposanto. Here he is to minister to the stubborn, mostly pagan and greatly impoverished Calabazas, but finds, instead, their oneness with nature and the spirits they see in everything creeping into his belief system. Then there is La Luz, the Custodian of Desire, a beautiful and sensual young woman whose charms ensnare the priest in an unholy affair … or is it his charms that have overpowered her?
The Indians are struggling with federal authorities to keep their homeland, a struggle into which Soledad is drawn. He believes he can find personal redemption for his past sins if he can win that fight for the Calabazas, but at what price?
This novel is a story filled with magic, spirituality, and Pueblo traditions, all played out in the heartbreakingly beautiful landscape of northern New Mexico. It is a wonderfully written and supremely entertaining book, highly recommended.