Synopsis from Goodreads.
Fifteen-year-old Odilia and her younger sisters embark on a journey to return a dead man to his family in Mexico, and must outwit monsters and witches to make it back home again.
Under the Mesquite by Ms Garcia McCall was one of the most underrated books I read last year. I’m not sure whether it was because I’ll always have a soft spot for well-written, beautiful verse novels, or because it was just a gorgeous and very affective story, but it’s wonderful and I would recommend it to you all in a heartbeat.
And while I didn’t have the same love for Summer of the Mariposas, I still really enjoyed it.
The Mexican and Aztec influences absolute thrum through this story, weaving all the other threads of character and plot and creating a rich and gorgeous book. Unfortunately, I have limited (read: zilch) experience and knowledge in Mexican or Aztec culture so I have a feeling that a lot of the references went over my head. And, I guess, a lot of the magic went with it. I took as much from this story as I could but I can’t help but think the reason why I didn’t love this story as much as I wanted to was because it lacked the magic that I found with Under the Mesquite.
That’s not to say that Ms Garcia McCall skimped on the detail and just threw random Aztec beliefs at you left, right and centre. They were wonderfully incorporated into the girl’s adventure but some of them just didn’t really stick with me. Also, they kind of got a tiny bit repetitive. I guess that’s one of the sad things about reading a book about a completely different culture; unless you have an already existing knowledge of it, as much as you want to it’s sometimes difficult to not see it through your own eyes that you are used to seeing your own world through.
Does that make sense? I’m not sure if it does but I can’t think of how else to explain it.
But I did learn something from this book and I will always adore stories that are steeped in tradition and folklore and superstition. There’s something so pure and interesting about them and I always want to know more. Actually, this book has a wonderful “Author’s Note” that explains more about the inspiration behind the mystical things that the sisters experience which was much appreciated and gave me a great starting point to begin to find out about the stories that are referenced in this story. All of this folklore and beliefs gave this book an incredibly beautiful “campfire” type of feel or, because you don’t get many opportunities to sit around campfires in Manchester, the kind of story your grandparents would tell you on a rainy day while you drink tea and eat ginger biscuits.
If Under the Mesquite made me realise that Ms Garcia McCall could work her way around beautiful verse, Summer of the Mariposas ensured my belief that she could do the same with prose. The language was stunning and gave the book a dreamy feel to it, like when the sun’s setting and everything is painted in that glorious dusky orange colour.
“We splashed around in that cold, clear water like river nymphs, born to swim and bathe till the end of days. It was a magical time, full of dreaminess and charm, a time to watch the mariposas emerge out of their cocoons, gather their courage, and take flight while we floated faceup in the water.”
All in all, this book is lovely. It’s a story about the connections between sisters, growing up, finding out who you want to be and a gorgeous exploration of the bond between a daughter and her mother. If you’re looking for a gentle story with an important moral, then you should definitely pick up this book. And then read Under the Mesquite because it’s even better.
Although, I must warn you: if you’re hungry, you should not read this book. I swear one of these days Ms Garcia McCall is going to end up with me on her doorstep with an empty plate held out and an expectant look on my face. When she keeps talking about tortillas like that, she only has herself to blame.
I received a copy of this book from the publishers.