Parental Sins
Miguel Antonio Ortiz
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Buy *Parental Sins* by Miguel Antonio Ortizonline

Parental Sins
Miguel Antonio Ortiz
Hamilton Stone Editions
256 pages
January 2014
rated 5 of 5 possible stars

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Author Miguel Antonio Ortiz has created a dynasty. Not one blessed with riches or impressive holdings, but one with a promising literary future. Readers will be sure to crave more works based on the lives of main character Julia Ortega and her offspring.

Parental Sins actually begins with Julia worrying that her husband will die without a child to carry on the Ortega name (and Arturo Ortega is going to die soon, from a terminal illness). "Be careful what you wish for" certainly proves true as the Ortega family then grows and grows. The years pass, and matriarch Julia regrets the actions--and the unexpected intensity--that produced so many children.

While the small Puerto Rican community interacts frequently with the town's Catholic priest, Julia herself is not religious:

She walked by the general store, the tavern and the town hall before she arrived at the square dominated by the church. Entering to pray occurred to her, but she discarded the idea, seeing no reason why the heaven connected to the church would have any reason to listen to her without exacting an exorbitant price.
Ortiz doesn't acquaint us intimately with every Ortega. But those that he does are memorable. The lone daughter, Maria, reveals herself to have inherited notable family traits:
Sometimes I wish I understood why I do what I do, and I don't, but I have to go with my feelings. Sometimes I dream that I'm on a horse that doesn't respond to my signals. I have no control over him. He decides where to turn and when to stop, but I'm always pleased at the end of the ride. so, that's the way life is, I suppose. We're just along for the ride, and hopefully we'll be happy.
Over time, Maria's friend Ramona succumbs to the unusual charms of Maria's brother Juan. He also exhibits common characteristics of the Ortega clan, much as he likes to think himself different.
'I suppose she knows what she's doing,' Juan said. He had very clear ideas of right and wrong in his mind, but in his heart they became murky. He knew that very well, but actions came from the heart not from the head. That too, he knew very well. All around, he saw everyone pay lip service to propriety, then proceed to self-interestedly act without compunction. He envied Ramona's ability to make both realms coincide. She seemed devoid of conflict, never tempted by evil thought.
Shortly after this narrative begins, all Puerto Ricans must adjust to both American rule and the lure of life in the US, especially modern consumerism. While many of the Ortega siblings prosper in their new NYC surroundings, Juan and Ramona find adjustment challenging. Ramona is haunted by a financially selfish decision and turns to the church in her desperation. Juan continues his fascination with more, regardless of the price his family will eventually pay.

Ortiz captures settings and characters with perfect prose:

'Como esta, Mama?' he said, and she, awakened from her reverie, smiled before her mask returned to protect what was left of her.
A red hue underneath the general view emphasized the clay base on which tropical plants of several varieties of green struggled with each other with a politeness usually thought absent in a setting so exposed to sunlight and the discharge of the clouds that now regally proceeded over the scene announcing their status as rulers while simultaneously pretending an indifference to human judgment.

Readers would absolutely seek out a sequel to Parental Sins. Meanwhile, I intend to read the other novels by Ortiz, The Cisco Kid in the Bronx and King of Swords.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at Leslie Nichols Raith, 2015

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