As the story unfolds, the book takes us to many places, goes backward and forward in time, and the author depicts fifty years of the history of Mexico. Although the first chapter of the book takes place in Paris in 1992, the story transports us to various parts of Mexico and other places--back and forth numerous times--and includes the present (2012) and the Conquest of the 1500s, and many years in between. As a reader, this was, to my relief, quite easy to follow, because the place and time (and main character) is provided as a guide in each section, which helped a great deal.
The author spent thirty years working on this book (although she set it aside at times)--and it shows. Suzan Still's writing is beautiful, powerful, and lyrical, and the descriptions of places in Mexico are particularly striking.
"On one trip to Mexico's Sierra Madre, they had managed an entire week of complete felicity. They rode the train, the Chihuahua al Pacifico, to the rim of the Barrancas de Cobre, then hiked into the village, still innocent of roads, where he was born. They stayed at his cousin's old adobe house with its wide plank floors and patio bordered in flower gardens and lived an idyll of sweet wood smoke, tortillas hot from the comal and the flat clang of the cracked church bell in its listing adobe tower."
~ Fiesta of Smoke, Suzan Still
Completely captivating, this story comes to life and is believable, although it does feature a few events which could be called magical realism; the author believes these instances are "expressions of dimensions of experience that are available to anyone under the proper circumstances" (from the author interview in the back of the book). Primarily, Fiesta of Smoke is a unique love story between two enchanting characters who draw you into their world fully, Calypso and Javier, who also share a love for social justice. I think the characters make this book so outstanding, Calypso, Javier, and other significant characters, like Hill, Farabundo, Estrella, and Carmelita. Calypso is an especially strong and interesting protagonist, and other women in this book are also important, along with the concept of the Divine Feminine. As you can tell, I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, and I want to read more by this talented author.
TLC book tours, The Story Plant is generously offering a copy of Commune of Women, the author's earlier book, as a giveaway (U.S./Canada only). I'm not sure if I can enter this giveaway as I'm the host, but I'd sure like to read this book!
- To enter this giveaway, simply leave a comment.
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Enter by 5 PM PST on Monday, November 4. A winner will be selected randomly and announced on Tuesday, November 5. Good luck!
Special thanks to Trish from TLC for sending me a complimentary copy of this novel. For more reviews of this book, please visit the other stops on TLC's blog tour for Fiesta of Smoke.