Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Earthquake Machine by Mary Pauline Lowry Review

This was the sort of book that after I finished, I had to walk away from for a little while. It’s themes and topics are hard hitting at first, but it’s after you walk away that you start really thinking about what was really going on. You remember scenes and conversations from the book long after you’ve stopped reading it and you try to figure out what the hell you think about it. Not only did the author’s personal story inspire me, but her self-publishing story did as well. I had high expectations for this book and I can tell you that it did not disappoint. On the author’s website, there is a disclaimer,

“Mary’s agent didn’t want to send out The Earthquake Machine to editors. The book was perhaps too edgy. Editors would be afraid to take a chance on such a wild ride. And so Mary decided to give readers a chance to find her.”

There are so many things to say about this disclaimer. First…how courageous is she? To be able to understand how different your book is from mainstream fiction and to take a chance on readers finding the book is inspiring. I love that she does not want to conform to what is mainstream or politically correct. And the disclaimer is absolutely true. This book is extremely edgy and I could see many people not understanding how to take this book in or appreciate what Lowry has written. I appreciate that Lowry decided to go a different route with this novel and I’m extremely grateful it fell into my hands. The Goodreads summary: 

The Earthquake Machine tells the story of 14 year-old Rhonda. On the outside, everything looks perfect in Rhonda's world but at home Rhonda has to deal with a manipulative father who keeps her mentally ill mother hooked on pharmaceuticals. The only reliable person in Rhonda's life is her family's Mexican yardman, Jes s. But when the INS deports Jes?'s back to his home state of Oaxaca, Rhonda is left alone with her increasingly painful family situation. Determined to find her friend Jes s, Rhonda seizes an opportunity to run away during a camping trip with friends. She swims to the Mexican side of the Rio Grande and makes her way to the border town of Boquillas, Mexico. There a peyote-addled bartender convinces her she won't be safe traveling alone into the country's interior. So with the bartender's help, Rhonda cuts her hair and assumes the identity of a Mexican boy named Angel. She then sets off on a burro across the desert to look for Jes s. Thus begins a wild adventure that explores the borders between the United States and Mexico, adolescence and adulthood, male and female, English and Spanish, and adult coming-of-age and Young Adult novels.

The Good: The Earthquake Machine is a dirty novel. Really, I’m not lying. It’s dirty in the sense that it gets into your skin, deep down inside, scrubs all the clean out of you and then replaces everything with grit and dirt. Lowry strips away all conventions in this novel. Rhonda is not your typical girl nor will she ever be. It is so difficult to describe her as a character because by the end of the novel I grew to love her, but I was also so confused and appalled by her at points. This novel is about MANY things but a sexual awakening is very much a huge part of this novel. It’s something not a lot of people are comfortable with and this novel does NOT shy away from it. Lowry is unabashedly honest in her portrayal of the way some females discover who they are sexually, mentally and physically. Rhonda goes through an incredible transformation that includes actually living life successfully pretending to be a boy for a while. She cuts her hair, changes to her name to Angel and sets out on an adventure that very rarely exists for anyone, let alone a young teenager. Rhonda/Angel questions everything and I love that about her, especially in terms of religion. She doesn’t deny that it exists for some, but she doesn’t quite agree that it is all that it’s cracked up to be. Her strength and adversity inspire me and her discovery of who she is had me rooting for her the entire time. I think the thing I loved most about this book was the amount of Spanish and Hispanic culture that rippled through. I LOVE the Spanish language and I love Hispanic culture and this book had the perfect amount of Spanish and English within.

The Bad: I noticed on a couple of other reviews, many people felt the same way as I did about the cover. It’s not that it’s a terrible cover…. it’s just that the book is so heavy and so amazing, this cover does not do it justice. I understand why it IS the cover but I speaking from not only a reviewer’s point of view but just a wandering reader, I would not have picked this book up based on the cover. If I hadn’t of received this book for review, I probably wouldn’t have given it a second glance. While terrible and sad, it is unfortunately the sad truth about books. They DO get judge based on their covers and self-publishing authors need to realize that will end up being a HUGE determinate of their sales. When a cover looks and feels professional, people are drawn to it and will feel that the inside of the book will match the outside (which it should!) Other than that, the only other negative I have for the book is that some parts felt a little long winded, like they could have been cut down or cut out a bit.

Overall, I thought this book was a knockout and a truly amazing reading experience. One of the deepest, heaviest books I have read in quite a while. I give it an A!

**I received this book free from the author in exchange for an honest review. All the opinions are my own and I was not obligated to write a favorable review.

If you found this book interesting, stop by tomorrow, Mary Pauline Lowry will be stopping by to answer questions and there will be... A GIVEAWAY!!!!