The Price clan, of Austin’s well-heeled West Lake Hills neighborhood, inhabits ERIC B. MARTIN’s third novel, THE VIRGIN’S GUIDE TO MEXICO, as a less than holy family. Truitt, a prosperous businessman, suspects his wife, Lindy, of cheating on him, primarily because he is unfaithful to her. Lindy, stylish and beautiful, maintains an emotional distance rooted in her deep shame over growing up dirt-poor south of the border. Their bookish teenage daughter, Alma “Allie” Price, is troubled and withdrawn: When her parents nix her plans to travel before entering Harvard, she rebels and hops a bus south in search of her Latino roots and her mysterious artist grandfather. Adopted by a coterie of young, rich Americans, she is soon introduced to Mexico City’s decadent club and arts scenes. There is a cheeky literalism to the title—this is a travelogue of Allie’s psyche and the Mexico she encounters—but The Virgin’s Guide cannot sustain the weight of its own ambition. Although it invokes both On the Road and The Catcher in the Rye, it lacks the manic inventiveness of the former and the sardonic angst of the latter.
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