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Mario Santos is a brown-faced Huck Finn on the banks of his Mississippi, the Chama River. He is Holden Caulfield out of the "gray" city and atop the beautiful mountains of Northern New Mexico, under the influence of a Pentecostal camp meeting; MacCauley Caulkin "Home Alone" and ankle deep in Tabernacle sawdust. Our ten-year old hero asks the hard spiritual questions of existence through a courageous and reckless abandon of convention, and an ADHD passion for adventure. He obliterates religious pomposity and sanctimonious boundaries with his natural discernment of Christian character and religious characters and cuts to the guts of hypocrisy like he's cleaning a freshly caught 'German Brown' trout. Mario Santos innocently introduces us to a God who might not be recognizable to those convinced of a sterile, stained-glass, Sundays-only deity of cushioned pews and hushed vaunted ceilings. Rolando Benavidez writes as colorful an auto biography as you will ever read, matching the wild wardrobe of a certain angel that keeps plucking Mario out of harm's way as only a supernatural Big Indian can. You'll wonder how the story can be true unless you've also experienced heroic, larger-than-life parents and a hilariously personal God. You don't have to be in the patched-up shoes of a Spanish-speaking, brown-skinned Pentecostal preacher's kid to enjoy Chama Stories, Mario Santos has got that covered and good, as he invites us to hang on for an adventure we won't soon forget. Chama Stories is a page turning, laugh-out-loud finger-tip trip down the author's memory lane; a dusty lane, set in New Mexico's beautiful Chama Valley, rife with dirt and bumps and outhouses and overzealous deacons and witchesand outrageous names and characters too many and funny to list. You'll laugh and cry and wonder why, and in the end you'll be looking for that camp meeting of your own. But be careful, you just might find it.
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