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Weekly Alibi Dorothy Cave's 'Mountains of the Blue Stone'

By Franchesca Stevens

AUGUST 30, 1999: 

Mountains of the Blue Stone by Dorothy Cave (Sunstone), hardcover, $35

Cavanaugh, the main character in Roswell writer Dorothy Cave's first novel, Mountains of the Blue Stone, is disenchanted with life in the Land of Enchantment. Despite "a good-looking wife ... no bitchier than most," a successful career and a beautiful home, Cavanaugh feels unfulfilled.

Cavanaugh's malaise doesn't last, though. On a hunting trip with some buddies, he falls off a cliff and is presumed dead. He's found by a man named Juli???n who comes from a village called Descanso, which isn't on any map. Descanso is named after the impromptu places where old-time funeral processions would stop to rest.

His stay in the village marks a transition for Cavanaugh. It's where he embarks on a second life -- one steeped in Hispanic New Mexican history -- where parish church bells ring "pink-toned" at dawn. Here, Cave skillfully captures much of New Mexico's historic Hispanic mystique. She notes the nearby Penitente morada where zealous Catholic men whip themselves to atone for sins, as well as the santo on Cavanaugh's caregiver's wall.

Cave, who's written two books before Mountains, both nonfictional accounts of New Mexican soldiers serving during World War II, says, "I'm trying to present a picture of the little villages, the little hamlets, the Hispanic leftovers from the 17th century that are rapidly disappearing."

Cave, a historian and frequent contributor to New Mexico Magazine, says she's worked hard to accurately portray life in historic New Mexican villages. For example, she says that before attempting to describe the types of flora and fauna that were used by New Mexican healers, she researched current plant life at similar altitudes in the state.

"I tried to be demographically correct," Cave says. "I believe with Chekhov, that the aim of fiction is absolute truth, and you have to stick as close to truth as you can."

Cave first explored northern New Mexico's past as a child accompanying her dad on geologic expeditions. Mountains is a fine read for anyone trying to grasp this state's elusive, yet enchanting, mystique.

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