After reading The Earthquake Machine by Mary Pauline Lowry I was a little stumped about what to say. There was so much going on, so I'll just start with the covers. The one on the left was the original cover. It left me thinking, "how does this cover go with the material?" A young girl named Rhonda goes on a journey of self-discovery to Mexico after the death of her mother. That little doll, which is supposed to be a piece of Mexican folk art, on the cover scared me a little. While these pieces of art, called alibrijes, play a big role in the book, this is Rhonda's story. The new cover seems to fit the story much better. When I see the cover on the right, I think of a girl who isn't afraid to take chances. A girl who likes to try new things. But is she confused? Happy? Sad? Does she even know who she is yet?
Rhonda's mother was plagued by years of mental illness. Her pharmacist father was no help either. He was content to have his wife doped up on medication, while he continued his affair with his mistress. Rhonda was left to her own devices. While Rhonda had several friends her own age, the family gardener Jesus was her main confidant. She marveled at his ability to make alibrijes. It's something she would like to learn. Her parents aren't teaching her anything worthy, so why not learn from a stranger?
As her mother descended further into madness, Rhonda's father was no help. He led a disturbed woman to believe that suicide was the answer. What about Rhonda? He wants out of the marriage so bad he's willing to sacrifice Rhonda's chance at a normal and happy life. Despite Rhonda uneasy home life, deep down she wants her mother in her life. At 14, Rhonda hasn't learned everything she needs to know about life and how to be a woman. Her life is just starting, but her father is willing to put his own happiness above his family's.
After her mother's death, Rhonda is unsure of what do with herself. Jesus has been deported, leaving Rhonda without her most trusted ally. A camping trip with her best friends and their fathers offers Rhonda the opportunity to swim across the river into Mexico. If she can find Jesus, maybe she can find happiness with his family. Rhonda gets the idea that dressing up as a boy and shedding her old persona will guide her through life. As a boy named Angel she can create a new life and truly discover who she is. She even refuses to eat, fearing that added weight will add unwanted "womanly" curves. She doesn't want those curves but she ends up discovering her sexuality and what it means in society. She even uses sex to get what she wants, which I wasn't a big fan of. There are other ways to "find" yourself. As Angel/Rhonda goes further in her journey her life is constantly put in danger. She begins wondering if there is a god, and if there is does he/she exist for everyone? What is god's plan for her? There is no easy answer to her problems.
Some passages felt a little long. I kept waiting for Angel to find her answers. How much has to happen to you before you finally get it? I guess I should be taking her age into account. You don't know everything as a teenager, but Rhonda made the adult decision to be on her own. And speaking of age, I would recommend this to mature young adults and adults. There is some language and sexual situations that just aren't for everyone. While I didn't like everything in this book, it is definitely unique. I don't think I've ever read anything like it.
Rating: Give it a try
Note: I received an e-galley from the author in exchange for an honest review.