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Mexican Gothic (NPR 7/2/2020)

Silvia Moreno-Garcia's Mexican Gothic is a thoroughly enjoyable, thought-provoking novel. I want to discuss it around tea, preferably while in the mountains, preferably somewhere well-lit. I remember placing my bookmark in the book and thinking, I should not have read this before bed.

I was afraid of what I might dream.

Noémi's cousin Catalina writes a strange letter begging for help. She claims her new husband Virgil Doyle is poisoning her, that "fleshless things" and ghosts trouble her, that "they will not let me go." Noémi — self-assured, chic and stubborn — leaves the glamor of 1950s Mexico City for the countryside, still depressed after a mining bust and fecund with secrets, to determine whether Catalina needs rescue.

Reader, she does. The situation is more complicated and sinister than the initial fear of just a con artist husband isolating his new wife and convincing the world she's mad so he can steal her money.

The Doyles of High Place are so Anglo and insular they brought European earth for their garden. Rot seeps from cracks, corrupts wallpaper and slimes the ceilings of the house. There is no regular electricity, so our heroine must get around with candles and oil lamps. Smoking cigarettes, going into town, and conversation at dinner are all against house rules. And when conversation doeshappen, the patriarch of the clan (Howard) says things like "You are much darker than your cousin," and approvingly discusses eugenics. Virgil and Florence (High Place's mistress) keep Noémi away from Catalina, saying she's in mysterious "treatments." Noémi's only potential ally is Francis, Florence's sheltered and delicate son. But even his friendship only stretches so far — and can it stretch further than the family land he's never left?

Link to full review and radio interview:


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