Saturday, January 18, 2014

Las Hechizadas ****

Fern Gully, Avatar, and more. A multi-layered masterpiece.

Las Hechizadas by Anne Garcia begins with the evil mining company destroying the rain forest and the residents fighting back to defend their livelihood and home: Aguas Puras (pure water). In this telling, the defenders are Las Hechizadas ... rough translated as good witches, enchantresses, who work their magic through the wide variety of flowers cultivated in the area.

The story is in two parts. In part one, Juan Romero visits Abuela (grandmother), discovers the mining activity and leads to fight until he is murdered. In part two, twenty years later, Catherine, a Canadian writer, is drawn to to Aguas Puras to write a book about Juan Romero. The time since Juan Romero's death is incrementally disclosed as Catherine interviews the surviving Las Hechizadas  and their friends.

Beyond this story line is much discussion of the politics of power, money, and capitalism versus socialism. I found the long discourses distracting from the narrative, but not enough to spoil the story ... I skimmed over these lectures on the injustice of corruption.

Ignoring the politics, this is a book of women: love, children, collective power, magic, and pain. While many of the subplots are traditional stories of women as victims of men and power and love, the community of women is powerful and triumphant without resorting to violence.

In addition to saving the rain forest, discussing politics, and living a life of love and magic, this novel has aspect of science fiction and mystery. Twenty years from the present (part two) small holographic projectors are common and holograms have replaced videos, even in the rain forest. Also, the reveals at the end, are as surprising as any mystery, even if the reader has pleasantly ignored the existence of any mystery at all.

Thus, this is a book of women's stories that can be read and enjoyed on many levels.

One note on the language: The book includes a fair number of Spanish words, most of which I was familiar with from living the the U.S. Southwest, but I still kept my Spanish dictionary at my side as I read. Most of the words I looked up were various terms of endearment, but a few added to my understanding of the story.

I won a copy of this book in a Goodreads First Reads giveaway on November 30, 2013. I received the book on December 14, 2013.

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