Novel Treasures

Daniel Peters is a first-rate storyteller whose work has not received the acclaim it deserves. His first novel, Border Crossings (Harper & Row, 1978), tells the story of a young man with a low draft lottery number, who, outraged and offended by the Vietnam War, flees to Canada.

Peters' next works are a superb trilogy of long and thrilling pre-Columbian stories, taking the reader into the heart of other civilizations and beliefs as only the best fiction can. The Luck of Huemac details an Aztec hero, family, and community. Though a little difficult to begin (because of unfamiliar and complicated names of Aztec deities), Huemac is a compelling tale of a culture weakened by bloodshed and finally destroyed by Spanish conquest. Tikal tells the story of a Mayan community-a tale of love, war, and agriculture. The Incas, somewhat less fresh and vital than the preceding works, is nonetheless a satisfying story of convincing people in exciting circumstances. All are what is known as "good reads."

And now Peters has written Rising From the Ruins, the story of a contemporary man, depressed and aimless, saved by joining an archaeological dig in Chiapas, Mexico, at the ancient Mayan site of Baktun. Harper Yates, a draft resister in the '60s, can find neither a place nor meaning for himself in the Reagan era: His novels are ignored; he and his wife inhabit a dreary rented house. "Why pretend he had a destination when his feet knew better?" he thinks, as he moves without direction in the suburban landscape.

The novel opens with a bizarre chase. Harp has taken to stealing the plastic lawn ornaments from well-tended suburban lawns. He is chased by police. While Harp gets away, he is "not safe, he decided upon reflection. Spared." But spared for what? His wife, a successful academic, is too caught up in her career to help him. And what would help?

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Sojourners Magazine September-October 1995
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