Richard and Sara Everton move from a sophisticated life in San Francisco to an old adobe house in super-rural Mexico where, on some harebrained idea, they think they can make a go of it by re-opening a copper mine abandoned by Richard's grandfather. It's an idyllic dream, and there are many good moments. But from the very opening of the book, we're told Richard will die, Sara will deny their problems till the end, and they will leave Ibarra without having achieved their dreams. The range and depth of characters in the little town, the juxtaposition of one culture against another, the assimilation of the atheistic Americans into the intensely Catholic community, the gorgeous descriptions of the landscapes, and the many side stories of the myriad characters all contribute to this book's perennial popularity. One gets the sense that the author's love and affection for her characters is real.
It's a beautifully written book, and it's certainly incredible that Harriet Doerr wrote it, her first book (at least the first to be published), when she herself was already an old woman