Silver Lake Publishing 2000
ISBN: 1-931095-10-8 (Electronic edition)
ISBN: 1-931095-11-6 (Trade Paperback edition)
Daniel Olivas’ book has been growing for some time. The seed was planted long before he ever began to write; probably before his hands were even formed to hold a pen. As I’m sure he has learned, no matter what the reason for putting the pen to the page, it is never an easy task.
         The Courtship of María Rivera Peña offers the reader a glimpse of a budding love, the beginning of a family’s heritage that traveled through the years, finally to make its impression upon the page of one of its members. Mr. Olivas gives the reader the opportunity to see his Beto, his grandfather, walk the tightrope for the woman he loves, Maria. As readers, we are relieved when she loves him back and the courtship begins.
         This is a love story in its truest sense. The bones of the story are love, courtship, and the intertwining of hearts and spirits. But it is also a story of struggle and completion for both the characters and the author. Through looking at the lives of those before us, we learn much about ourselves; there were reasons this story had to be told. Mr. Olivas needed to tell this story for himself and his family.
         To summarize this book would mean speaking just a few words about a love story that is obviously grand. But let us give it its greatest praise: This is a love story with great magnitude and texture, a story that is the nucleus of this family.
         It is commendable and even inspiring when any love story is brought to the page–not all love stories can live on white pages; the translation from thought to paper is sometimes arduous. Unfortunately, this one seemed to lose something in its journey between the author’s mind and the paper.
         While it’s easy to see Mr. Olivas’ attachment to this story, to these memories, to the love of these characters, he makes it impossible for the readers to feel it themselves. For any book to be "good", it must appeal to the emotions of its readers, it must pull at the heartstrings and make us care about the lives of its characters and their journeys.
         Every reader loves a love story, but there are reasons why: The reader wants to feel the love of the characters jump from the page. The Courtship of María Rivera Peña is at times lackluster, dim, and difficult to read. The reader must strain to pull any kind of emotion from this story, though it should be illuminated upon the pages and presented freely. Clearly, this novella wasn’t given the room to breathe its own beauty; a story like this deserves to be told, but it asks its writer to step aside and let it be heard.
         Simply looking at the cover photo of Maria and Beto on their wedding day gives the reader an attachment to these young lovers. Yet the words speaking for that photo have an obligation to measure up to its beauty, and The Courtship of María Rivera Peña doesn’t say enough about this insinuated love. With some stories, the reader is better left to imagine such love than to see it structured with ill-placed adjectives and so separated from the eloquent details that give it its shine and immortality.
         This novel is invaluable in its own right. Mr. Olivas is a writer who believed in it enough to tell it, and many readers can be enriched by his noble effort. But Mr. Olivas inadvertently starched the edges of this story, stiffening the softness of a passion obviously true, and consequently obscured the brilliance of all love stories: the love.