Something very special happened to me about two weeks ago. I got promoted to being an archivist, a position that I’ve wanted to be for a very long time. I’m slowly transitioning into that role as of now.
In the meantime, I’ve reading lots of books to keep myself from stressing out from the new job. I’m almost done with I Let You Fall: A Romantic Drama by Sara Downing, and I started two new titles that I’d love to show right now!
Greetings From Nowhere by Barbara O’Connor is about finding friends even in the most remote of places. Ever since her husband Harold died, Aggie has been all alone with her cat, Ugly, and keeping up with bills and repairs at the Sleepy Time Motel in the Great Smoky Mountains have become next to impossible. On top of that, no one has stayed there in nearly three months. When Aggie reluctantly places a For Sale ad in the newspaper, she doesn’t know that a few families will come her way. These include Kirby and his mom, who need a room when their car breaks down on the way to reform school; Loretta and her parents, who are on a trip to honor Loretta’s birth mother; and Willow and her dad, who wanted to move into the motel to replace the life that was shattered when Willow’s mom left. Above all, Aggie and her guests eventually find the friends that they needed the most.
I like this book so far. It clearly spells out each of the character’s motivations, especially why they go to the motel. Each of the chapters focuses on Aggie, Kirby, Loretta, or Willow, but it doesn’t feel abrupt. Like with Salt to the Sea, they constantly interact with one another. As a result, readers get to see multiple viewpoints of the same incident and what the other characters are doing while the novel highlights a certain person. I look forward to seeing how they all become friends.
And now, let’s look at the second and final book!
Valley of Shadows by Rudy Ruiz is a visionary neo-Western blend of magical realism, mystery, and horror, and it explores the dark past of injustice, isolation, and suffering along the US-Mexico border. In 1883 West Texas, the Mexican city of Olvido is stranded on the northern side of the new border between the US and Mexico after the Rio Grande shifts course. When a series of mysterious and horrific crimes occur in the divided town, a retired Mexican lawman is lured out of retirement to restore order and to save the lives of abducted children. In the face of skeptics and hostile Anglo settlers, Solitario Cisneros struggles to overcome not only the evil forces in the area, but also his own inner demons. He is burdened by a mystical curse that has guided his lonely destiny, until Onawa, a gifted and beautiful Apache-Mexican seer, joins his mission and dares him to change the course of both their lives.
This book is not out until September 20, but I got an advanced reader’s copy from Books Forward. It’s a good novel so far. I like Solitario as a character, for he’s smart and good at what he does. Readers can easily see why he’s so reluctant to assist the town with solving the crimes as well as empathize with his personal demons. In addition, it does an effective job with addressing discrimination and injustice in this time period. This is especially true when Onawa acknowledges how if Solitario as the new sheriff arrests a white person for a crime, then he would be considered racist by the Anglo settlers, but if he apprehends a Mexican person, then other Mexicans would assume that he’s selling out his own ethnicity.
One thing that I noticed while reading it is that it seems to fit with Hero’s Journey template popularized by Joseph Campbell almost perfectly. Solitario (good name for a guy who wants to be alone) gets the call to help the town to solve the crimes as the new sheriff, but he refuses it outright. However, he ends up searching for the abducted children with assistance from Onawa, who has supernatural abilities. At this point, the novel is roughly at The Crossing of the Threshold phase. I’ll discuss the Hero’s Journey more when I get into the full review.
Finally, I want to point out that this might not be for everybody. Its opening scene contains the first Olvido sheriff, his wife, and their eldest son getting murdered, and it’s pretty gory. Even I got squeamish at times. Additionally, some people might not like the talk about injustice, thinking that’s too contemporary. I think it’s necessary because it feels natural to the story. Solitario has many reasons why he doesn’t want to assist with the case, including how Anglo settlers might perceive him (think Bart the black sheriff from Blazing Saddles).
Overall, I’m excited to see what’s to come in this tale.
We have now come to the end of the thirty-seventh chapter of “What Am I Reading?”
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