This beautifully written novel tells the story of approximately one year in the life of Erica Mason, a 23 year old American girl who has been living in Mexico for two years. Set in the 1970s, while America and the world was still suffering from the effects of the Vietnam war, and at a time when the world is changing (women’s lib movement, gay rights and legal abortion), this book powerfully captures the spirit of the time, as well as showing the reader Erica’s own personal experiences.
Erica initially moved to Mexico to hopefully develop as an artist, and to find out who she really was and who she wanted to be. Living in Merida, in the Yucatan part of Mexico, she finds many distractions – in the form of drugs, unsuitable men and the poverty surrounding her – which hinder her ability to work on her art or herself. Indeed Erica realises that far from being a social indulgence, the drugs she takes are becoming an addiction to her, especially the Quaaludes (downers) which she takes to calm her.
Linda Dahl describes the lifestyle in Mexico at the time in question, with real skill, so that the sights, sounds and scents which surrounded Erica seemed to almost jump off the page. Dahl apparently spent a lot of time in Mexico in the 1970s, and it certainly shows in this book, with an authentic feel of the place, and especially of the Yucatan area where Erica spends much of her time. The people of the area and their culture are portrayed with great understanding.
Erica herself is also portrayed wonderfully, so that she becomes a character who the reader cannot help but care about and empathise with, as she struggles with her journey through life, in the hope of finding peace with herself.
This is a character driven rather than a plot driven book. The reader sees the world through Erica’s eyes, and becomes well acquainted with her friends and the people who pass through her life.
The story paints a vivid portrait of a young woman in turmoil, in a country facing many problems, at a turbulent time for the world. Highly recommended.
(I would like to thank the author for sending me this book to review. Linda Dahl’s website can be found here.)