By Jennifer Armstrong
Updated November 19, 2004 at 05:00 AM EST

Grad student Eric is struggling to find himself: He’s not that interested in the thesis he’s been writing about historic immigration patterns in Boston, his focused live-in girlfriend is pushing him to figure himself out, and he has just learned that his pale British father was born in a small Mexican town. As Eric sets out to explore his roots in Mexico, Anita Desai weaves together the stories of Eric, his grandparents’ struggles there during World War II, and the fierce ”Queen of the Sierra,” a former German showgirl who became a local legend defending the native Huichol people from inhumane conditions in the silver mines. All of The Zigzag Way‘s threads intertwine during a modern Day of the Dead celebration — resulting in a beautifully rendered combination of history, folklore, and modern fiction.