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.
* Book cover image attributed to www.amazon.com