Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Book Review: The Eathquake Machine - Mary Pauline Lowry

Synopsis - The Earthquake Machine tells the story of 14 year old Rhonda.  On the outside, everything looks perfect in Rhonda's world, but at home Rhonda has to deal with a manipulative father who keeps her mentally ill mother hooked on pharmaceuticals.  The only reliable person in Rhonda's life is her family's Mexican yardman, Jesus.  But when INS deports Jesus back to his home state of Oaxaca, Rhonda is left alone with her increasingly painful family situation.

Determined to find her friend Jesus, Rhonda seizes an opportunity to run away during a camping trip with friends to Big Bend National Park.  She swims to the Mexican side of the Rio Grande and makes her way to the border town of Milagros, Mexico.  There a peyote addled bartender convinces she won't be safe travelling alone into the country's interior.  So with the bartender's help, Rhonda cuts her hair and assumes the identity of a Mexican boy named Angel.  She then sets off on a burro across the desert to look for Jesus.

Review - Never judge a book by its cover!  I won this book in a contest on Readinista blog last year.  I doubt if I would have bought it, possibly because it is not my usual read but the cover would have been a turn off.  Although, I hasten to add, that I do not buy books because they have pretty covers.  I buy if I like the synopsis, author, a recommendation from newspapers/magazines, friends and sometimes blog reviews.  I digress, there is a later cover with a girl on the front but I don't think that would have made a difference either.  That's the cover covered (pardon the pun)!  Now the title does refer to an item in the book and it has a parallel with the fact that Mexico does have its share of earthquakes, I'm not sure I would have given the book this title myself but that is the author's prerogative.  So we have an odd cover and a strange title and the book, yes, as it states on the cover 'crazy good', it certainly is a bit crazy.

It's the book version of a road movie and I think could be written into a screenplay for film media.  We have a journey, the travel across Mexico, the young teenager growing up physically, spiritually and mentally, the searching, yearning, it's all there.  The folk Rhonda meet along the way, the interactions, prejudices, society steeped in tradition and rules, it is all packed into this relatively slim novel.  Written for the older YA market but a read for most adult age groups.  As the back cover states this book explores "the borders between the US and Mexico, adolescence and adulthood, male and female, English and Spanish, and adult coming of age".  It was an interesting book.  3*

ISBN: 978-1-4567-9585-6

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