I LOVED Mexican Gothic more than I thought I would. And it’s not that it was over-hyped (was it?), or any of the negative comments circulating about it. It’s just that horror and romance are not my genres. But I did love it. I loved how it was slow paced, building up the excitement until past mid-book. I loved how authentic it felt, all those references to Mexican culture that made me nostalgic for my grandpa, and the deep side of it: the exploration of colonialism and eugenics. But most of it, it’s just an easy, addictive read. And some readers thought it should have content warnings, but I thought it was not too explicit or full of gore. It was pretty mild, in my opinion.
I loved “Lakewood” by Megan Giddings. At the beginning it gave me a “We Cast A Shadow” vibe (by Maurice Carlos Ruffin, another book I loved!) but though they both deal with racism and the burden of white-centered beauty standards (among other themes), they are very different books.
Lakewood takes us to a tiny town in Michigan, of the same name, where secret and unethical government sponsored clinical trials are undertaken on human subjects, mostly BIPOCs. Lena, a college student just lost her grandma to cancer and is forced to work to pay her mom’s medical bills as well as to continue to afford college. So, human trials that offer amazing insurance and great benefits, how bad can they be? They end up being a nightmare. Though not a horror story by itself, this story is pretty terrifying and cringing, and yet so addictive. Like a horror movie, you want to turn it off and turn a blind eye, but you also must know if Lena will make it out alive. It is so good! Worst part is that it is probably not too far away from the truth. I totally recommend it. I wouldn’t mind picking it up again right now.
This review includes spoilers. I don’t usually mind them since I feel that they allow me to understand the book better from the start, but if you do, please do not read any further. A spoiler-free review has been posted to my Instagram page (@literaryinfatuation).
If I could sum up this short and captivating novel in one word I’d say: Resurrection. José, husband of Laura and father to a one year-old girl named Antonia, lives in a small town in Argentina. On arriving to work one morning, he discovers that the factory where we worked was burned to the ground. Consequently, his wife decides to go back to work early and takes a position as a proofreader at the same company, rather than her old job as editor. José, on the other hand, becomes a full-time dad and housekeeper. Laura works long hours, has a very long commute and feels very frustrated due to her demotion. Her spirits are down, and if you couple that with José’s own frustration at his new situation, marital problems are unavoidable. José is bored, frustrated and feeling utterly at loss, how will he fill in the long hours? He quickly devotes his whole energy and time to fixing things around the house and being the perfect dad, husband and housekeeper. He discovers that he is actually pretty good at it, even if Laura seems to mind everything he does or does not do. One day he even decides to start composting and growing vegetables in his garden and heads over to his next door neighbor to ask for a spade. What follows is a crazy journey, full of murder, obsession and paranoia. The novel takes this crazy twist pretty early on, and José’s narration full of frustration becomes even muddier. His marriage gets worse. He loses control of his life and starts losing faith on his dream to become a writer, which he had left long behind to be able to provide for his family. What we will discover along with José in his journey, is the resurrection of lives lost, resurrection of his marriage, and resurrection of his dreams.
If you are a fan of Tolstoy or Ernesto Sabato’s The Tunnel, I feel pretty confident that you’ll love this short novel, packing a lot of action and intrigue in less than 200 pages. If you love authors who “show rather than tell”, you’ll find this story right up your alley.
The only reason why it is a 4 star rather than a 5 star read for me has nothing to do with the author himself. Though I have not had a chance to get a hold of an original version in Spanish, I feel that the translator made sentences shorter to make the narration sound more similar to what it would have if it were written in English. That is not necessarily bad, but being that it is supposed to be the rambling of a very disturbed and confused person, it makes it feel at times unnatural. Plus, as a native speaker of Spanish, such short sentences do not seem possible or natural in the speech of an Argentinian, much less a very frustrated and upset one. I think that the translator should have given the reader a bit more credit. If the reader can figure out dialogues without any punctuation or spacing, then she/he can handle a few long sentences. Overall, I cannot recommend this book enough.