February 18, 2009

Highwire Moon by Susan Straight

Highwire Moon by Susan Straight
Date Started: February 7. 2009 Date Finished:February 18, 2009
Disclaimer: I actually picked this up at the bookstore while waiting for something and started reading it in January sometime. However, I bought the book at Writer's Week and started reading it shortly after I bought it.
Summary: 15 years ago, Serafina Mendez, an illegal immigrant, takes her daughter and tries to get away from the town of Rio Seco. Unfortunately, she is caught by the police and is deported back to Mexico. 15 years later, her daughter, Elvia, is looking for her mother after her father almost gets in trouble with the law. Elvia is 14 1/2 years old and pregnant and she decides to steal her father's car to find her mother. Serafina has been taking care of her ailing mother and living in her old hometown. When her mother dies from breast cancer, Serafina decides to go back to the US and find her daughter.
Likes: The story as a whole was very well written and poetic. The story didn't come off as stereotypical nor did it come off as overtly racist. Sure, there was some racism in the course of the story, but the author's ethnocentricity didn't come through neither did the narrator's. It was an interesting story though and the characters were fully rounded. The point of view was at a third person limited point of view through Elvia, Serafina, and Larry, Elvia's father. The thing I enjoyed the most was the aspect of Elvia coming from two different worlds as portrayed by Elvia's long black braids and her green eyes. The history about the Mixtecos is very interesting to read and it is clear that the author did her best to portray these characters realistically. The ending was bittersweet. Elvia and Serafina don't actually meet, but they do know that they were looking for each other. I think this is probably the best and most satisfying ending without boarding on to melodrama. At first, I didn't really like the end, but the more I thought about it, the more I liked it. I applaud Straight for knowing when and where to stop. If she would have kept going perhaps with the mother and daughter meeting each other, that would have been fine, but awkward to read. How can an author write about two people so closely related meeting for the first time? Especially when the whole situation was just a big misunderstanding? I'm glad the author stopped where she did and didn't have the characters meet and didn't continue with an epilogue about Elvia raising her child or something because it would have been less satisfying to know what happen instead of just imagining that things got better for them.
Dislikes: The parts with Larry dragged a little bit. I was actually just wanting a story about Elvia and Serafina, and their thoughts and ideas about finding each other. The parts with Larry aren't bad and I'm sure if they were taken out I would probably want his perspective on the whole issue. I guess I was just expecting a story about a mother and a daughter, not necessarily a family, however dysfunctional it was. The ending at first was a little irritating and intially I didn't like it, however, after careful consideration I liked it.
Overall: If you want a happy ending, perhaps this story isn't for you. If you want a satisfying ending, then this story is for you and you'll probably enjoy it. It's sometimes funny, but always bittersweet and a little sad. Straight is able to get the emotions on the page without resorting to a first person narrative, which I think is probably hard to do because we beginning novelists tend to think that third person is distancing the reader from the story. If you have a lot of stories to tell, all of which are of equal importance, as with this story, then third person limited for each character is probably your best shot. At any rate, I really enjoyed this book. It took me a long time to finish because I was busy, but it had a satisfying ending and was true to life. Not all stories are happy ponies and rainbows. In the end, people went back to their lives as best they could and Serafina and Elvia came to a kind of understanding and acceptance, and even love.
Aside: The language that Straight utilized in her novel was the same kind of language I was trying to use in my short story "A Town of Ghosts". Of course she succeeded because she is better than me, but she's one of the writers that inspired me to try something different.

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