St. Nacho’s by Z.A. Maxfield
Highly recommended as an endearing love story
Story outline: Cooper has spent the last three years running from a painful past. He’s currently moving from town to town, working in restaurant kitchens, and playing his violin for tips. As soon as he starts to feel comfortable anywhere–with anyone–he moves on. He’s aware that music may be the only human language he still knows. Ironically, the one man he’s wanted to communicate with in all that time is deaf.
Shawn is part of a deaf theater group at the nearby college. Shawn wants Cooper as soon as they meet and he begins a determined flirtation. Cooper is comfortable with down and dirty sex, just not people. As far as Shawn is concerned, dirty sex is win-win, but he wants Cooper to let him into the rest of his life as well.
Cooper needs time to heal and put his past away for good. Shawn needs to help Cooper forgive himself and accept that he can be loved. Both men find out that when it comes to the kind of healing love can bring, the sleepy beachside town of Santo Ignacio, “St. Nacho’s” as the locals call it, may just be the very best place to start.
Review by Gerry Burnie
For someone who apparently began writing in 2006, Z.A. Maxfield demonstrates a remarkable level of maturity in almost every aspect of her writing. Her characterization of the St. Nacho’s cantina, delivered in a very few words, captures the essence of a layback “hangout” so familiar to all of us who are reformed barflies like Cooper: the friendly but world-wise bartender; the booze stained carpet and smell of same; and the slightly melancholy atmosphere over all. The ideal setting for a story like this.
However, where her light really shines is inher characterization of Cooper, a complex mix of a talented and sensitive musician inside a cynical, crusty exterior of his own creation, and a past that he has been putting miles behind in an attempt to outrun it in his mind. Consequently, St. Nachos is just another stop in quest to find ‘nowhere.’
Enter Shawn, a profoundly deaf boy who ‘hears’ Cooper’s cry for help above the ‘noise’ that surrounds him, and in response to this Cooper is drawn to him as drowning man is drawn to a life raft. However the ride isn’t free, for Shawn exacts a price of tender love and affection from Cooper that, given his past, is not easily given.
So what’s so special about that? Well, for one thing it’s all credibly done, right down to the turmoil that Cooper feels inside; the quandary this presents to Shawn, who with limited communication must coprehend this paradox to move the relationship forward; and the faith one boy has in the other. This requires not only considerable insight, but discipline to pace it all just right.
The final test comes when Cooper’s past catches up to him in the person of Jordan, his childhood sweetheart, and who ostensibly took the rap for a child’s death that occurred with Cooper in the truck. Once again the characterization of Jordan is remarkably credible as the emotionally arrested ‘adolescent’ grasping for straws in people—particularly a smarmy lay-preacher shopping for souls—and a convenient depository for his guilt.
The story also holds together remarkably well, except toward the end with the introduction of additional characters who are not so well defined. Moreover, some of these characters, i.e. Mary Lynn the librarian and Bill the cop, don’t fit in comfortably. Moreover, their sudden appearance seems slightly contrived.
Nevertheless St. Nachos is an engrossing and heart-warming read from beginning to end, and highly recommended as an endearing love story.
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