Happy Sunday! *Cue the “Guess Who’s Back” verse in that one Eminem song*
Yes, yes, I know it’s been a while. October was crazy busy—I moved, got married, started job hunting—I haven’t had time to read, let alone come up with and then produce content for this blog. It’s been a crazy month. But I’m back, and finally settled into my new life!
And, more importantly, I’m finally settled into a routine that allows for reading.
Well, sorta. I’m still trying to carve out time in each day to do something for myself, which is usually reading, but it’s not a perfect system. I had no idea how much energy truly went into running a house. And it’s just the two of us! I can’t imagine how busy I’d constantly feel with a kid, or even a pet honestly.
Anyways, yesterday I was feeling pretty rundown and blew off all my chores to sit and read. I started reading MEXICAN GOTHIC by Silvia Moreno-Garcia before I went back to RI before the wedding (so, late September) and only got about 80 pages in or so before the chaos of everything took over. But yesterday I flew through the rest of the 302-page book and OH. MY. GOD.
Seriously, oh my god. When I ordered this book months ago, I was expecting a creepy ghost story. I knew it was set in an English mansion in Mexico and that setting alone intrigued me, but I was really in the mood for some ghosts. What Moreno-Garcia delivers, though, is something so much more intricate and horrifying.
Here is a complimentary spoiler alert warning because I just don’t know if I can really delve into my thoughts about this book without giving anything away. If you haven’t read MEXICAN GOTHIC yet, bookmark this page, read the book, and come back.
Okay, so. The story follows our protagonist, Noemi Taboada, a socialite from Mexico City, as she travels to High Place in El Triunfo for a wellness visit. Her cousin, Catalina, has married an Englishman, Virgil Doyle, and moved to his family’s estate. The marriage was fairly rushed and Noemi’s father, Catalina’s guardian, wasn’t too pleased with it, but the family lets her go off with her new husband and doesn’t pay much mind to the fact that she’s become distant ever since. Until a letter arrives, written in Catalina’s frantic hand, that makes Mr. Taboada and Noemi question the sanity of their kin.
Noemi is sent to High Place where she quickly begins to have similar experiences to her cousin. Voices in the walls, strange apparitions, the slow onset of illness as she loses her appetite… just as she think’s she’s solved the case—that High Place really is haunted, and that she must take Catalina away immediately—she realizes she’s far from the real truth. I think Noemi’s line to Virgil, Catalina’s awful husband who, along with his family, try to force Noemi to marry his cousin Francis, sums it all up nicely: “So I’ll be wed in the Church of the Holy Incestuous Mushroom? […] I doubt that’s valid.” (Mexican Gothic, p. 239).
The voice in this book was incredible, from the dialogue down to the third-person narration. I felt my chest getting tight more often than not as the suspense of it all weighed down on me. Noemi’s fight to free herself, her cousin, and her friend-turned-love Francis had me frantically flipping the page. Virgil’s character, in particular, made my skin crawl. To be short, he’s incredibly fake, a liar, and a predator. His scenes alone with Noemi constantly made me uncomfortable; Moreno-Garcia did a wonderful job of creating such unlikeable villains as Virgil and his father, Howard Doyle.
This book is A Lot, from gore and body horror to triggering mentions of rape and incest, but oh my god it was so good. Everything ties together in the end. Every symbol, every motif, pays off. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.
On Goodreads, I rated this book at a 4 stars, but in reality I’d give it more of a 4.5. The 0.5 point deduction is only because, as others have mentioned online, the beginning is a little slow (but to be clear, that’s not why it took me so long to finish this book) but once things picked up—man, it picked up.