Read Still Water Saints by Alex Espinoza Online


Still Water Saints chronicles a momentous year in the life of Agua Mansa, a largely Latino town beyond the fringes of Los Angeles and home to the Botánica Oshún, where people come seeking charms, herbs, and candles. Above all, they seek the guidance of Perla Portillo, the shop’s owner. Perla has served the community for years, arming her clients with the tools to overcomeStill Water Saints chronicles a momentous year in the life of Agua Mansa, a largely Latino town beyond the fringes of Los Angeles and home to the Botánica Oshún, where people come seeking charms, herbs, and candles. Above all, they seek the guidance of Perla Portillo, the shop’s owner. Perla has served the community for years, arming her clients with the tools to overcome all manner of crises, large and small. There is Juan, a man coming to terms with the death of his father; Nancy, a recently married schoolteacher; Shawn, an addict looking for peace in his chaotic life; and Rosa, a teenager trying to lose weight and find herself. But when a customer with a troubled and mysterious past arrives, Perla struggles to help and must confront both her unfulfilled hopes and doubts about her place in a rapidly changing world.Imaginative, inspiring, lyrical, and beautifully written, Still Water Saints evokes the unpredictability of life and the resilience of the spirit through the journeys of the people of Agua Mansa, and especially of the one woman at the center of it all. Theirs are stories of faith and betrayal, love and loss, the bonds of family and community, and the constancy of change.From the Hardcover edition....

Title : Still Water Saints
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781400065394
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 256 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Still Water Saints Reviews

  • Deborah
    2019-05-21 04:28

    Finished this book, sat back and shook my head at the places it had taken me. This story was like a web, with the old woman in the middle where everyone meets even if just for a moment. Each character is a crucial part of that web, part of a creation that is a world unto itself, a small drop of water in which I see everyone I've ever known reflected. That world is brutal, sad, draining, and at the same time, full of hope. Behind this book is a strong, stubborn, insistent faith in our own capacity for joy and goodness. I will take my copy of this book to the West Hollywood Book Festival on Sunday and ask Alex to autograph it for me!

  • Adrian Stumpp
    2019-06-09 00:18

    Still Water Saints is the story of an old woman who owns a New Age Book Store in suburban Los Angeles and her relationships with the several neighborhood people who visit her shop. The first sentence is "She could walk on water," which was the only remotely intriguing sentence in the entire novel. I originally had a few more things I was going to say, but none of them are very nice and a few are down right mean. This book wasn't bad enough to get mean spirited over, so I'll stop.

  • Cheryl Klein
    2019-05-24 04:31

    Alex Espinoza has a great eye for detail and a generous literary spirit. Some of the vignettes in this collection of connected short stories touch down lightly, but others are intense--it's impressive that a voice so gentle can also be unblinking.

  • Heidi
    2019-05-21 22:35

    Alex Espinoza enters the minds of vastly different characters with such grace, wisdom and knowingness. Many of these interconnected stories broke my heart in the best way.

  • Jessica Delgado
    2019-05-22 03:28

    Excellent representation of Latino middle class, as the botanica is in the middle of all actions. It's very close to where I actually live, and so it's interesting to see the reality in this fictional piece. I had to read this for a Latino book club, and I'm so glad this was chosen. Lots of emotions rolled along with me while reading this, and I look forward to what else this author has to offer.

  • Laura
    2019-06-13 23:25

    Espinoza was able to create an authentic image in print that reflects the same sidestepping a person does in and out of the lives of those around them. The minute details are what make this book a true joy and I am thankful to the author for the story of Rodrigo.

  • Steven
    2019-06-17 01:26

    Great read, especially if you like or identify with Hispanic or curanderos culture. the chapters read like short stories, but they all tie together. It was well-written, and I enjoyed it very much.

  • Jenny Shank
    2019-06-06 20:29"Journey to Agua Mansa"Espinoza creates rich, vivid world in debut novelBy Jenny ShankFor the CameraFriday, April 13, 2007In his debut novel, "Still Water Saints," Alex Espinoza conjures up an entire town of people, the residents of the fictional Agua Mansa, and brings each of them to vivid life. Although the town is located in Southern California, its tales of hardscrabble existence in a predominantly Mexican-American community could originate in any gritty urban fringe of the Southwest.The book cycles around Perla, the elderly proprietor of the Botanica Oshn, a store selling all manner of aids for psychic and spiritual ailments, such as "Quit Gossiping" candles, "Adam and Eve" love oil and "Repel Evil" bath salts. The goods offered for sale in botanicas, stores that are common in Latino areas in the U.S., blend elements of Catholicism, new age beliefs and Santeria. Perla serves as a counselor, doctor, and surrogate grandmother to her customers. In other words, Espinoza has chosen a wonderfully rich subject for his novel, and he proves a capable Scheherezade."Still Water Saints" alternates third-person chapters from Perla's perspective with first-person chapters from the perspectives of different customers. The book coheres as a novel, but Espinoza brings the skills of a short-story writer to bear through precise language that conveys unique voices for the many narrators yet still remains consistent enough that the many shifts don't feel disorienting.Espinoza has a knack for making each character come to life within the space of a few sentences. A young boy describes how he spends a lonesome summer: "There was an empty field that wasn't too far from my house. I would go there almost every afternoon to ride my bike, smashing beetles with my tires, pretending I was racing in a tournament."The tales in "Still Water Saints" start out innocently enough with Rosa, an overweight teenager looking to drop a few pounds with the help of some of Perla's tea. Rosa starts to fall for an ex-con she meets at the grocery store where she works, and the twists her story takes are mirrored in the dark turn of the novel as a whole.Perla, a lonely widow who was never able to have children, becomes obsessed with a troubled young man named Rodrigo who makes his way into the store one day. A transsexual trying to save money for a sex-change operation comes to Perla for advice about how to get her recently deceased friend into heaven. A Latina named Nancy whose father's health is worsening must decide if she's ready to forgive him for his racist treatment of her black husband. To fund their drug habit, a couple of hoodlums steal from an electronics store where one of them works.While the lives of Perla's customers change, the neighborhood changes too — the dollar store next door to the botnica in the strip mall closes and a body piercing and tattoo shop called "Stigmata" moves in. A rock thrown through the botnica's window seems to mark an ominous turn for the neighborhood, but then Espinoza includes a chapter from the perspective of the rock thrower, and the situation doesn't seem so grim after all.Espinoza blends the dark with the light in careful balance: people die, others are born, some relationships founder, while others form. Some of the parents he portrays are attentive, others are neglectful, but most of Espinoza's characters are believably complex, showing one side to their families and another to the world.Espinoza's details effectively bring the world of his characters to life, such as the rosary Perla sells with "beads that shine like wet pomegranate seeds"; one character's childhood memory of sitting in the family Chrysler during a car wash; or this description of sweethearts spending a day together: "We walked around the flea market imitating the sound Steve Austin's bionic legs made whenever he ran fast or jumped high."The painstaking care Espinoza has taken in crafting his debut novel is evident. Economical with its words, yet teeming with life, "Still Water Saints" should mark the beginning of a distinguished career.

  • Angie Fehl
    2019-06-12 20:15

    3.5 StarsIn the fictional town of Agua Mansa (just outside of Los Angeles, California), when problems arise -- family, romantic, health, what have you -- the citizens go to see local healer Perla Portillo at her shop, the Botanica Oshun. A place where she practices her own special brand of a sort of white magic. Here, Perla has therapy chats with her neighbors and then customizes a package for them. Usually the package is made up of teas, candles or herb mixes but it varies with the situation. While each client's story has its unique challenges, one man will prove to be more difficult to help than the rest. Elderly Perla meets young Rodrigo when he mysteriously shows up outside her shop one day, just observing her for awhile. When he gets up the nerve to speak to her, he asks her to teach him how to speak English better. Perla is a little surprised by the request but is concerned about the somewhat sickly look the boy has, not to mention the numerous, mysterious burn marks she spots all over his body. She decides she needs to help him any way she can but soon finds herself fighting against his elusiveness, his unexplained fear and constant desire to flee at any moment. In the process of trying to help Rodrigo, Perla finds herself having to confront her own inner demons. Though this is considered a novel, the chapters almost read like individual short stories. Each chapter focuses on one particular resident of Agua Mansa and their interaction with Perla. Sometimes the chapters are told from Perla's perspective, but all the chapters weave together so as a whole you get to see the inner workings of this small community, with chapters often referencing something or someone mentioned in a previous chapter.I liked all the diversity within the Agua Mansa community! These chapters have stories of the struggles of inter-racial relationships, the process of transition for one transgender character, there's even a character fighting with infertility. So many minority voices and concerns addressed in this one little story! This novel is also an education in the influence of Catholicism within a Hispanic community, with many of the characters pouring their woes and hopes in prayers to saints or what might be considered more pagan spirits -- a number of them I've either rarely or never heard mentioned before -- such as Chango, lord of lightning; Orunla, spirit of wisdom and divination; Yemaya, the daughter of the sea, just to name a few. There's also explanation between the difference between Ellegua -- the energy of the universe -- and Elegua, who opens locked doors, thereby opening up possibilities.I also smiled at the reference to classes being taught about "The Big One": The earthquake that all kids who grow up in the Southern California school system seem to grow up hearing about. I know I heard quite the horror stories at my own elementary school in San Diego about how one day soon there was going to be a huge quake that was going to break off the whole state of California from the rest of the US, making it an island. My mom heard these stories when she was school age in San Diego, my older brother heard it, I heard it, kids now are still getting those stories and it has yet to happen. Not saying it couldn't or it won't, I'm just saying seeing it mentioned in this story made me grin a little simply because of the nostalgia factor, dark as that might sound, lol. Note to sensitive readers: There are some scenes in the story with gritty, adult content -- two friends doing speed, watching porn, one man having sex while another man looks on -- just wanted to give a heads up to anyone who wishes to avoid this kind of content. Also, POTENTIAL TRIGGER WARNING: there are also brief descriptions / scenes of rape and self-harm within this novel.

  • Leah K
    2019-06-02 04:11

    Still Water Saints by Alex Espinoza★★ ½ Synopsis on Amazon: Still Water Saints chronicles a momentous year in the life of Agua Mansa, a largely Latino town beyond the fringes of Los Angeles and home to the Botánica Oshún, where people come seeking charms, herbs, and candles. Above all, they seek the guidance of Perla Portillo, the shop’s owner. Perla has served the community for years, arming her clients with the tools to overcome all manner of crises, large and small. There is Juan, a man coming to terms with the death of his father; Nancy, a recently married schoolteacher; Shawn, an addict looking for peace in his chaotic life; and Rosa, a teenager trying to lose weight and find herself. But when a customer with a troubled and mysterious past arrives, Perla struggles to help and must confront both her unfulfilled hopes and doubts about her place in a rapidly changing world.Let me just start by saying that this book had quite a bit of potential but that’s about it. The characters are rarely engaging (except for Perla) and are fairly flat. You do see the subtle connections between everyone in these little snippets of their lives…but it’s pretty subtle, you really have to search for the connections through it all. In a world where I find that many books would be better if they just shortened them a bit, this one would have been better if it was longer, allowing the character to grow much more than we see at all. I may have even rated this book a bit higher if it weren’t for several obvious grammar and spelling issues. I’m sorry, but if you are going to write a book (and is also an editor himself) and have it professionally published (in this case through Random House), there should NEVER be a mistake as obvious as “their” where a “there” should appear (In this case “Has their been any change…”). Made me shudder and was enough for me to actually give a lower rating for the book, especially since it wasn’t the only major mistake. A good attempt at a first time author but it could have been so much more.

  • Vonnie
    2019-06-09 01:30

    I was looking forward to reading this book. I've had it in my TBR pile for a very long time and was happy to find the chance to finally read it. Agua Mansa and its people was vividly portrayed in the book but unfortunately I did not enjoyed it as much as I hoped. There wasn't much of a plot. The book was told through many stories of different people who lived in Agua Mansa but concentrated mostly on the curandera (healer), Perla. Some of the stories were interesting while others were boring. It was too slow for my taste and I could not see how these stories made it a memorable year for the town as the synopsis indicated. I did liked though how each section was broken up as the year progressed and how that time was represented by a certain saint. These saints are not the catholic ones but those of the healing community. Learning about the saints made the book more bearable for me. The characters were done well but their stories did not help with having them be unforgettable. I liked the main character Perla and enjoyed reading her chapters. Her hopes and dreams were represented well and I was able to connect with her. The other two characters who I loved to read were Azucar, the transvestite dancer, and Rodrigo, the unfortunate immigrant boy. Their endings were mysterious and I really wanted to know what happened to them. The rest of the characters I did not care much for. I found myself skipping most of their chapters.In all, this book had great potential. I was looking forward to it but was disappointed in the end. There were a few great parts but unfortunately they weren't enough to make me like this book very much.

  • Book Concierge
    2019-06-13 23:21

    Espinoza’s debut is an imaginative look at one year in the lives of the residents of Agua Mansa, California. Perla Portillo, the proprietress of the Botanica Oshun, is at the center of the story, because it is to her that the other characters come for advice, assistance, charms, herbs, cures and candles. The remedies she dispenses are given with love, understanding and hope. Perla, however, is just human and her efforts will not cure every ailment or trouble. There is something about this book which reminds me of The Mistress of Spices by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. The common problems of the residents who seek help are rather universal. They might have been confiding in a priest or a hairdresser, but in both these books they arrive at a storefront where unconventional “cures for what ails you” are dispensed by a somewhat mysterious owner. The chief difference is that MoS has a much more fantastical back story, and clear magical elements, while Perla is a very human woman who has taken on this work as a way to fulfill her need to be useful and a way to find a family. Because the focus of the novel is Perla, all the other characters play supporting roles, and some are quite minor. As may be expected in this kind of ensemble piece, the reader is left without any clear answers as to what happens to these various characters. If you are a reader who needs a clear-cut ending to the story, this will not be the book for you. I enjoyed it, and would read another book by Espinoza.

  • Celine
    2019-06-04 23:09

    This reminded me strongly of a subtler, more modern take on House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende. While many have commented that the book is too slow or boring, I disagree- the tempo is perfect for the flow of events and character perspectives. It fits right in with the setting- you can imagine the heat of an average day in Agua Mansa, the stillness of the air through which thoughts and whole lives unfold and don't seem to change the flow at all. I think we can all relate to that feeling.I will say that I enjoyed this book but it is tempered by the fact that I enjoy several parameters at work- I enjoy exploring writing from Latin-American perspectives, slice-of-life storytelling, that touch of magical realism, and the integration with a familiar setting (I spent several years living in Southern California). This is the quiet profundity of lives we don't get to see, of things some of us will never experience or feel not because they are unimportant but because it is not classified as 'bestseller' material.If you've ever spent long summer days with nothing to do but question the purpose and meaning of things, if you've ever dealt with difficult questions of spirituality, if you've ever experienced the loss of a family member or a friend, or indirectly experienced it and been left in that strange limbo of how best to relate yourself, this is a must read.

  • Alison
    2019-06-18 01:25

    This story revolves around Perla Portillo, a 72 year old widow who runs Bot_nica Osh_n (a spiritual Center) in the small town of of Agua Mansa on the fringes of LA. The town is mainly a Latino town, and gives us a wonderful view into the families living there, their culture and the problems they each have. Perla, is an integral part of the community for many, offering tools for people to manage their problems whether through herbs, Saints, candles, or prayers, she is there to help all seeking her knowledge. The story is divided into the lives of different families or individuals all connected somehow to Perla and her store. They are not always happy stories, but all are interesting and well worth a read. I particularly enjoyed the story, since I grew up in a Latin Culture and because of my love for what she offers in her Botanica. I love how he, the author began a lot of the sections with the "Feast" of a saint and then a description and what they represent, and why people pray to them. Beautifully written.

  • MonaAlvaradoFrazier
    2019-05-28 22:07

    An intriguing first chapter all the way to the end. Espinoza uses descriptive, evocative writing to set the scenes and foreshadow. Perla, the owner of a botanica, is the central character, who serves the community with her amulets, candles, and religious items. Her small business seems to be dying, just like the surrounding strip mall, but people still come to her or she goes to them, to help in their time of need. The other characters, who have their own chapters, are just as interesting and memorable as Perla. The series of stories are well constructed, even though, there are many other characters with their own storylines. Espinoza writes these vignettes without stereotyping or making the characters caricatures. He writes them with respect and an insightful knowledge of their lives. Although some of the chapters were depressing to read, full of grief, loss, betrayal and the reality of poverty, this is a book to read. I'd definitely read any other books that Espinoza publishes.

  • Lisa
    2019-06-12 00:30

    This book was disappointing. Great ideas, poor execution. I liked it better by the end, but if I weren't so OCD about finishing every book I start, I probably wouldn't have made it that far. The dialog is clumsy and doesn't sound at all how people talk. Characterization is slip-shod -- you don't get a real sense of anyone, including the main character, and even basic features like age and appearance are hazy. Details and descriptions are often just pointless, tedious lists that don't lend meaning. And most of the vignettes fail to end with any particular poignancy (or point). I hate to sound mean, but I really think a writer with more skill could have made much better use of this material.

  • Mandolin
    2019-06-16 20:12

    This book made me nostaligic for my botanica days and curse the fact that there is nowhere around here where one can buy a 7-day candle. The main character is the woman who runs the botanica and the book is made up of scenes from the interweaving stories of her regular cutomers. (spanning more time than you think at the beginning of the book) It's more "slice of life" than spiritual odyssey, though our leading lady does have a crises of faith of sorts. The one-word review of this book would be "honest." Honest in its characters, their situations, and in the locations. This book was also published in Spanish.

  • Steve
    2019-05-28 22:15

    Good first novel, but what it lacked was a proper tempo. Didn't seem to pick up the pace where it should've and stale in some parts. Interesting and innovative structuring of chapters which are divided by a Roman Catholic calender(ex. Oct.4 St. Francis of Assisi). However, the book's not at all intended to be dogmatically Catholic, but rather, the main character, Pearla, owns a botanica, mixing Roman Catholic and pagan rituals. The narrative revolves around Pearla and the people who visit her shop.

  • Elvia
    2019-05-27 04:07

    I really liked this book and read it in 4 days! It was written by a guy from La Puente! I was impressed that a guy could write so well from a female perspective. His stories completely pulled me in and I could actually hear the characters' dialogues in my head. The stories revolve around a botanica and Perla, the owner. Each story deals with a different character whose life is somehow linked to the botanica. It was beautifully written and moving.

  • Stephanie
    2019-05-26 01:24

    Made me a little nostalgic for home in a way. Reminds me of the botanicas in East LA. Though I have found 2 botanicas here in Brooklyn, one in Greenwood Heights and one in Park Slope, oddly enough. It makes me wonder about the blurring of lines between faith and medicine, and how classifies one from the other, if that's even possible.

  • Sydney
    2019-06-14 04:21

    I am usually able to squeeze a few more stars out of books I read for school, since teachers point out layers and merits I miss; but I didn't get many out of this one. I went into it expecting each narrative to be revisited later in the novel; when they weren't, I was left wondering what it was all for. The writing was a bit clumsy, although it did move along well.

  • Darlene Gordon
    2019-06-18 02:10

    I listened to rather than read this books as I downloaded a copy on Audiobooks to my iPad. I enjoyed it immensely as I am studying Spanish but since Spanish is not my first language I will have to listen several more times and perhaps purchase the book to truly get the most from it. I look forward to get more understanding each time I listen to it.

  • John Beynon
    2019-05-23 22:13

    Espinoza's first novel is a wonderful account of life in a largely Latino community in the Inland Empire in southern California. He takes his cue from masters such as Flannery O'Connor and Sherwood Anderson, and he succeeds in writing a touchingly honest account of the dynamics of identity, community, and place. Highly recommended.

  • Ashley
    2019-05-31 01:10

    Interesting book set in a Mexican-American town in Southern California and revolving around the local botanica. It consists of of vignettes of the many varied people living in and around town. It's always interesting to read about how different people live their lives, and although it's nothing ground-breaking, I would recommend it.

  • Charles Barragan
    2019-05-18 02:16

    A wonderful book that centers around a healer and the diversity of those who interact with her - this could be a collection of short stories given how well crafted the chapters are, Well worth reading.

  • Rene
    2019-06-04 21:28

    This was an amazing collection of character vignettes. I had met the author at a conference and he talked about how he set the novel up in the fictional town but how it is connected to his home town of Riverside. Very good book and just had me turning pages to find out more about these characters.

  • Laurel Doud
    2019-05-23 22:07

    I loved the writing of this book. Took me into many interesting lives. But I have to say I wanted more from each of the characters. So many just disappeared. I know it was a slice of life novel, but I liked the characters and wanted more.

  • Brian
    2019-06-06 04:08

    My first purchase at La Casa Azul, a great bookstore in East Harlem. I had a hard time with the book, however. The characters and stories were all very rich but nothing really hooked me. It turned into a slow read.

  • Jen
    2019-05-29 21:21

    I really enjoyed this novel. The author takes a place and develops the characters who live there. It is similar to Maeve Binchy novels when it comes to the development of characters, but such a different time and place!

  • Kerilynne
    2019-05-21 00:17

    I didn't finish this one. The language is beautifully crafted, but I felt like the story wasn't taking me anywhere. It may be that this was one I was reading aloud on car rides, so it didn't hold our attention between trips.