Still Water Saints chronicles a year in the life of Agua Mansa, a suburban town east of Los Angeles and west of the desert, home to school teachers and construction workers, middle managers and accountants, shoplifting speed addicts and overweight grocery clerks, Elvis fans and Madonna impersonators, Mexican immigrants and Chicana muralists, long-distance truck drivers and punk-loving tattoo artists. It’s also home to the Botánica Oshún and its owner, Perla Portillo. Perla has served the community for years, arming her clients with the tools to navigate all manner of crises, great and small. But when a boy with a troubled past arrives in her store, Perla must confront her growing doubts about her place in the world. Interweaving Perla’s story with those of her customers, the novel weaves a vibrant tapestry of intersecting lives in California’s rapidly-changing Inland Empire.Called a “stunning debut” by Los Angeles Magazine, “elegantly crafted” by the Washington Post, and “the beginning of a distinguished career” by New West, Still Water Saints was a selection of Barnes and Noble’s “Discover Great New Writers” program in spring, 2007. A Spanish-language edition, Los santos de Agua Mansa, California (translated by Liliana Valenzuela), was released simultaneously


“Still Water Saints is an extraordinary account of a community that reaches a boiling point each time one of its citizens tries to navigate the everyday crises of a complex society — and the woman who holds it together…. Espinoza’s strength is in giving each voice its individuality and in painting a durable portrait of the contemporary multifaceted American town. This is an excellent novel.”
– El Paso Times

“Alex Espinoza’s Still Water Saints is a cycle of tales as perfect as the beads of a rosary. One alone is a little miracle; the whole together is capable of renewing one’s faith in new fiction.”
– Sandra Cisneros

“Through it all, hard and soft, Espinoza is unflinching, cool, unsentimental, …incapable of false or flimsy storytelling. His style is ominous, layered and clean — reminiscent of a Hieronymus Bosch painting. Still Water Saints is charming, yet its charm is an uneasy one. Its whimsy has teeth. And that is, absolutely, a compliment.”
– Los Angeles Times

“[Espinoza] writes with a sharp and at times devastating sensitivity to loss and social erasure, as if determined to keep the worlds represented by his own Agua Mansa from falling off the map.”
– Tu Ciudad Los Angeles

“Alex Espinoza is poised to become the Faulkner of his own haunted landscape, that of the Agua Mansa community of inland southern California. He’s written a whole world here, of ancient ghosts which haunt river bottom land, of restless spirits of young men and women who chafe against their constrictions, of the fields and streets and people watched over by a modern Virgen de Guadalupe and a curandera like no other. This place will be made real to readers across the nation through his delicate, spirit-infused, and lovely prose.”
– Susan Straight

“Espinoza …brings a small southern California town to vivid and vibrant life in his magical debut. … [He] is a refreshing new writer, and his first novel embeds itself indelibly into the reader’s memory.”
– Booklist

“The author, too, possesses el don, and that is his beautifully impressionistic writing, which captures not only the inner lives of the novel’s many characters but also the somewhat melancholy tone of a changing community, of a place that is increasingly becoming like every other place…. It is filled with enchantment and even faith in supernatural powers, but what happens in each tale is utterly natural and completely believable. It does not ask us to suspend disbelief even while it bewitches. Espinoza is certainly a writer worth keeping an eye out for.”
– San Francisco Chronicle