Poet Mora's complex and dramatic family history comprises more than personal reminiscences: it also embraces resonant aspects of Mexican American history. Mora recounts her family's traumatic exodus from Mexico to escape the violence of Pancho Villa and his forces and their struggles to begin new lives in another country. To anchor her psychologically rich, dramatic, sometimes funny, often touching multigenerational tale, Mora uses the image of a house—the house of houses—during a single year, a fruitful metaphor that allows her to dwell on the bright beauty of flowers, birds, and trees, emblems of the loving legacy of her nurturing family.
Mora has created an ingenious structure for these recollections of her extended family, of their lives and the tales they share about the family's history. Woven in with these memories are recipes, fragments of songs and poetry, folk remedies, and jokes, all of the small matters that most reveal a family's identity. In a language deftly mingling the natural cadences of speech and precise, poetic imagery, Mora believably summons up both a group of tough, loving, idiosyncratic survivors and a vivid, detailed portrait of life in the Southwest in [the last] century.