And the Earth Did Not Part is made up of twelve thematically linked pieces bracketed by introductory and concluding chapters. Consisting of interior thoughts and third-person observation, the book, narrated from multiple perspectives, focuses on Mexican migrant workers in Texas as they struggle against the cruelties of Anglo bosses and the insularity brought on by their minority status.
In “The Lost Year,” an unidentified character, imprisoned in a cycle, believes he is awake when he is, in fact, dreaming. “The Children Were Victims” describes one hot day when an angry boss shoots a worker’s young son as the child drinks from a scarce water supply. “A Prayer” is for a man’s son fighting in Vietnam. “It Is Painful” presents a dialogue between two Mexican boys, one of whom is jumped by white boys in the school bathroom but who is the only student expelled as a result. The boy fears going home, worrying what his parents will say. “His Hand in His Pocket” concerns a young boy sent by his parents to live with a Mexican couple. They murder an elderly man for his money, then force the child to help bury the body. An unnamed boy in “It Was a Silvery Night” creeps out one night and defiantly tries to summon the devil; he is victorious when the devil does not appear. In “. . . And the Earth Did Not Part,” a boy, having already witnessed the tuberculosis-related deaths of his aunt and uncle, is furious at God when his father suffers sunstroke while out in the fields. When the boy’s brother is struck by heat exhaustion after being denied water while working, the boy curses God. To his amazement, the earth does not swallow him. In “First Holy Communion,” a man recounts his preparations for his first childhood communion. The...
(The entire section is 724 words.)