Friday, June 4, 2010

Book Review: Normal Miguel by Erik Orrantia

Reviewed by Alan Chin
Published by Bristlecone Pine Press
Pages: 145

Miguel Hernández leaves Mexico City to complete a one-year teaching internship in the rural hills of Puebla. He is a serious teacher, who traveled away from home and family for the first time. But before he can begin teaching classes, he has a sexual encounter with the local baker, and later meets Ruben, the gay owner of the local candy store. These meetings lead him down a path where it is impossible to keep his private and professional life separate, or even secret.

This is story of Miguel’s self-discovery, which is aided by his students, the director of the school, the baker, but mostly by Ruben, who becomes both friend and lover. But of course, Miguel’s journey becomes rather stormy when people of his small rural landscape begin to notice the bond he and Ruben develop. Homophobia rears its ugly head. Can the lover’s survive the threat of small-town bigotry and the influence of family?

This story presents lyrical descriptions and rich details, painting colorful tapestries of life in the Mexican countryside. It shows a balance between grinding poverty and people who care for their community and their native land. It reveals prejudice and hate, but also the affirming power of love and acceptance in overcoming obstacles.

This is a simple story that is carried along with lush descriptions. The author skillfully brings his two main characters to life and gives them depth. I do wish he could have spent a bit more time developing some of the minor characters, but that did not detract from my enjoyment of this love story.

My two complaints about this story were that the author often created awkward point-of-view shifts from one character to another, a flaw seen often with first-time authors. Also, he created a couple of threads with different antagonists, but simply dropped the threads halfway through the story, giving them no resolution. But those minor points aside, I found that Normal Miguel captured my heart and imagination. I can highly recommend that all readers who love romance take this year-long journey of awakening with Miguel.

Read more about his author and book here.

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