Frank Waters, whose work has spanned half a century, has continually attempted to depict the reconciliation of opposites, to heal the national wounds of polarization.
Flight From Fiesta, Waters’ first novel in nearly two decades, is testimony to that aspiration, emerging as a moving and masterfully–told story of two characters who must discover the potential for common ground between their personalities.
Set in Santa Fe in the mid–fifties, the story itself is deceptively simple. Elsie, a spoiled, self–centered ten–year–old Anglo tourist girl, has come to the annual Fiesta with her divorced mother and her mother’s lover. When Elsie runs away from her hotel, she encounters Inocencio, an old alcoholic Pueblo Indian now reduced to selling pottery beneath the portal of the Palace of the Governors. With childish cunning she maneuvers Inocencio into taking her away with him. In the wake of the child’s disappearance, as the local posse–mentality intensifies and Inocencio is suspected of kidnapping and perhaps molesting her, the frightened Indian flees to the hills, taking Elsie with him on a week–long odyssey through the mountains, towns, and pueblos of New Mexico.
Waters’ eye is precise, providing sharp visual detail on very page. His ear is flawless, especially in his rendering of the laconic and stolid Indian speech patterns. All through his book there is an immediacy and a feel for place and culture that cannot be fabricated but must be gained, as Waters himself has gained it, through a lifetime among these people, these towns, and these mountains. The reconciliation of the two fugitives of Flight From Fiesta serves to point, not didactically or allegorically, but emotionally and spiritually, but emotionally and spiritually, to the possibility of the grander reconciliation that Waters envisions.