Under the Mesquite by Guadalupe Garcia McCall (YA)

Under the Mesquite

Under the Mesquite  

Guadalupe Garcia McCall (Young Adult Fiction)

Lupita knows that her Mami has a secret that she is hiding from her and her seven siblings.  She hears her talking with her comadres in their hushed words and sees their furtive glances.  Something is different.  Something is wrong.  Then Lupita hears the word that Mami keeps tucked behind closed doors…”cancer”.  Suddenly, Lupita has to deal with her mother’s chemo treatments, her best friend’s sudden ridicule, and her upcoming 15th birthday.  Through it all, she has her writing.  For a brief moment, Lupita is able to block out the world and find solace as she pours out her feelings under the sanctuary of her family’s mesquite tree.

McCall gives us inspiration through tragedy as she delivers a compelling story written entirely in free verse.  Although this is a quick read (a slow read is encouraged), the author provides an enormous amount of depth, detail, and emotion by using just a few words proving that less is indeed more.

I enjoyed seeing Lupita go between her homeland of Mexico and her current home in the United States.  McCall’s use of Spanish words throughout the book gives the story a richness that allows us to totally immerse ourselves in Lupita’s culture and world.  These two halves of her life are very different, but somehow fit seamlessly to give us a whole girl who is headstrong, caring, and mature beyond her years.

In the beginning of the story, a mesquite tree unexpectedly grows in the middle of Mami’s prized rose garden.  But over time, this intrusion is a welcomed and comforting presence.  Through pruning, the tree has grown to be quite lovely, but it is not its beauty that strikes Lupita.

“I envy the mesquite

its undaunted spirit, its ability to turn

even a disabling pruning

into an unexpected opportunity

to veer in a different direction,

flourishing more profusely than before”.

It would be wonderful if we were all just a little bit more like the mesquite tree:  growing stronger after being weakened, finding new opportunities through loss, and thriving wherever planted.

Rating: 5/5

* Book cover image attributed to www.amazon.com

 

 

Captains Courageous by Rudyard Kipling

Captains Courageous

Rudyard Kipling (Adult Fiction)

Harvey Cheyne is the spoiled, arrogant, and disrespectful son of a railway tycoon who, while on his way to Europe to complete his schooling, falls overboard into the Atlantic Ocean.  He is rescued by a fisherman and taken aboard the schooner We’re Here, where he quickly realizes that money, power, and social status matter little on the high seas.  Under the watchful eye of Captain Disko Troop, Harvey soon navigates his way not only through perilous oceans, but also through the turbulent lessons that come with life.

This is perhaps one of the finest stories about life on the sea ever written.  Kipling’s narration is masterful and the storytelling is superb.  The details of life on board a schooner are painstakingly described and detailed—right down to the last eye-bolt.  Every word is carefully chosen and crafted and the result is nothing short of poetic: “The dories gathered in clusters, separated, reformed, and broke again, all heading one way; while men hailed and whistled and cat-called and sang, and the water was speckled with rubbish thrown overboard.”

This book is truly deserving of the word “classic”; however, Kipling’s passion for authenticity often makes reading dialogue difficult at times.  His phonetic transcription of a New England dialect in the late 1800s is often tricky to decipher and comprehend (“furriner” for “foreigner”, “naow” for “now”, and “spile” for “spoil”), but it is this same commitment to genuineness that allows the reader to be wholly transported into a world dictated by the weather and ruled by the sea.  A coming-of-age book about loyalty, friendship, and love that truly gets better with time.

Rating: 5/5