Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Far from Gringo land by Edward Myers

   The title of this book captured my attention and from the description on the inside cover I thought that it would be worth a read.  Another facet of the book that caught my attention was the fact that the main character, Rick was from the state of Colorado where I also live. As I discovered though, the action is set mainly in Mexico so little mention is made of Colorado.

 The story starts when seventeen-year-old Rick Dresner journeys one summer to a small town in Mexico called Santo Domingo. This is not just for vacation purposes however as he is returning to stay with a family that he met on a previous trip in order to help the father and brother complete some construction work on the house. Suffice it to say that he has never done much manual labor,  far less of the type done in small town Mexico where much of it is done by hand. For this reason, a lot of the first half of the book consists of him talking about the hard work, how tired he is and how delicious are the meals cooked by the mom Emiliana. The quick short chapters allow us to ponder Rick's thoughts and reflect on them before he relates some new adventure.

Rick is not the only American in the town however and he does meet a pretty teen, Ellen whose father has secluded her and her younger siblings in a walled compound that although it is within walking distance of  Rick's hosts is a world away.  The character Ellen becomes the object of Rick's affection but during some of the awkward situations I found it hard to believe that a worldly person such as herself would be so easily riled. Also some of the ways she affected the story later on seemed a bit contrived.

This book is aimed at younger readers (probably grades 6-12) but the third person viewpoint of the book was a bit alienating, I felt a first person account might have given the story more heart or emotional resonance. Still, the book made me look for similar accounts of culture shock and collusion between Americans and Mexicans; I think there is definitely more room for dialogue about the lives of our southern neighbors. A quick search on Novelist for title read-alikes produced a book called  Crossing the wire by Will Hobbs, so I am going to read that one this week and blog about it next week. Stay tuned...

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