The Earthquake Machine by Mary Pauline Lowry
Released: March, 2011
Publisher: Author House
Buy it: Book Depository (free shipping) | Amazon
The Earthquake Machine tells the story of 14 year-old Rhonda. On the outside, everything looks perfect in Rhonda's world but at home Rhonda has to deal with a manipulative father who keeps her mentally ill mother hooked on pharmaceuticals. The only reliable person in Rhonda's life is her family's Mexican yardman, Jesus.
But when the INS deports Jesus back to his home state of Oaxaca, Rhonda is left alone with her increasingly painful family situation. Determined to find her friend Jesus, Rhonda seizes an opportunity to run away during a camping trip with friends. She swims to the Mexican side of the Rio Grande and makes her way to the border town of Boquillas, Mexico. There a peyote-addled bartender convinces her she won't be safe traveling alone into the country's interior. So with the bartender's help, Rhonda cuts her hair and assumes the identity of a Mexican boy named Angel. She then sets off on a burro across the desert to look for Jesus.
Thus begins a wild adventure that explores the borders between the United States and Mexico, adolescence and adulthood, male and female, English and Spanish, and adult coming-of-age and Young Adult novels.
This was a very hard review to write - I feel very conflicted. The Earthquake Machine was a good book, and I see why others would enjoy it but for me personally... It just wasn't my kind of book.
I have always been a little turned off by books that are heavily influenced by religion - I have no issues with any religion and I have nothing against it, but it’s the atmosphere and context of the book which just doesn't entertain me as much as some other books.
The writing style was very different. I had trouble understanding some scenes, particularly towards the start of the book, and got easily confused. Aside from that, however, the writing style was interesting, descriptive and unique. It was so raw and honest, and very confrontational. The themes in this book are very heavy and dark and the scenes that address these issues are very descriptive and in some cases gruesome. This can be a little off-putting, but it contributes to the serious tone of the book.
The dialogue got a little confusing as well, with so many Spanish phrases. I don't speak any Spanish so I often had to look up the translations if I couldn't guess what it meant.
Rhonda was a very strong character with a lot of courage. She is very admirable, in being brave enough to confront her conflicted feelings with herself and her body head on, and make sacrifices and changes in order to achieve happiness. The journey she embarks on is very spontaneous and risky, yet I completely understand her reasoning. Her life back home was no where near happy or pleasant.
I really respect Mary Pauline Lowry and her writing on the serious topics of sexual awakening alongside so much tragedy and pain. Unfortunately, this just wasn't the book for me and I wasn't able to finish it. Like I said, I can see the appeal for others, so if it sounds like something you may enjoy, then I'd suggest at least giving it a try.