I’m a little surprised that this book has as low a rating as it does – though only a little, since flawed female protagonists seem to draw a lot of hate. I definitely liked this one better than Esquivel’s major hit, Like Water for Chocolate; this book is much more grounded and contains very little romance (both the romance and the male lead in Like Water for Chocolate are incredibly unattractive).
This book makes no bones about being a parable for modern Mexico, with a broken woman representing a broken country. Lupita has had a hard life and coped poorly, and though she’s somehow become a police officer (an explanation would not have been out of place, since she previously served time), she struggles with addiction. Her fragile sobriety is shattered when she witnesses an at-first-inexplicable political assassination, which kicks off the novella.
I found this to be an entertaining book, with a good mix of action and forward momentum with introspection and backstory. Esquivel also brings the setting to life well; a reader would learn much more about Mexico from this book than Like Water for Chocolate. It is quite explicitly political, which isn’t in a fault in itself, as books should reflect life. Most Americans would probably be surprised to learn that Lupita’s opinions about the drug trade – that American consumers are largely to blame for generating demand in the first place – are commonly held in Mexico. However, the book’s solution for Lupita and for Mexico is simplistic, seeming to suggest that a reversion to indigenous beliefs (often explained in set-asides from the text) would bring instant healing of all wounds. An additional couple of chapters at the end could have done a much better job of wrapping up the story.
All told, then, an okay book, and the writing is better than I remember from Esquivel. Still not one I’ll recommend widely.
Laura Esquivel is best known as the author of Like Water for Chocolate. In her new book,Pierced by the Sun, the magic realism is less overt, but it's there nonetheless.
Lupita is a Mexican policewoman who witnesses the murder of a local politician in broad daylight on a city street. His death throws her back into the self-abusive practices she had used before -- drinking and drugs. At the same time, the local political machine marks her for death. She inadvertently escapes into the succor of indigenous spirituality, and in so doing, finds a way out -- not just for her personal dilemmas, but maybe for her nation, too.
Esquivel does a fine job weaving together the various threads that make up the tapestry of modern Mexico -- Catholicism and indigenous religion, political corruption and the drug trade, and people just trying to live their lives. The trope of the modern woman who finds her way again by adopting ancient ways is somewhat hackneyed, but at least the author doesn't make it the focus of the book. She does, however, have an overt agenda, or at least a moral to her story; it's clear that Lupita is a stand-in for Mexico herself, as evidenced by the story's final sentence:
Most importantly, if Lupita -- who had collected so much pain, who had experienced so much anger -- could heal and connect to The Whole, so could Mexico.
I picked up Pierced by the Sun for free as part of Amazon's Kindle First program. If you're looking for another Like Water for Chocolate, you'll be disappointed. But if you can stand a little morality play with your magic realism, you may enjoy Pierced by the Sun.