Under the Mesquite
by Guadalupe Garcia McCall [YA McCall]
An expression that comes to mind about Under the Mesquite by Guadalupe Garcia McCall is that "the whole is greater than the sum of all its parts". The main storylines to this verse novel are the immigration of a Mexican family to America and the death of a parent. Thematically, the story is also about family, friendship, and identity. All of these parts interconnect to make an emotional experience that will have long-lasting impact. The immigration experience forms one storyline to Under the Mesquite. However, this verse novel is not about the difficulties which can happen to immigrants in crossing the border or when trying to avoid deportation. Instead, Under the Mesquite is about an altogether different struggle: one which I call dual homesickness. Basically, when she's on the American side Lupita misses her former life in Mexico, but when she's on the Mexican side she eventually finds herself longing for her new home in Texas. Because Lupita looks different and has an accent, naturally she also faces discrimination. And yet to my surprise, its Lupita's Mexican friends who harass her the most, accusing her of talking "like you wanna be white". Because of these different takes on immigration, I found Under the Mesquite to have a fresh approach. The death of a parent forms a second storyline to Under the Mesquite. When Lupita enters her freshman year in high school, her mom is diagnosed with cancer. Despite the rallying times when it felt as if her mom would recover and life would return to normal, Lupita and her sisters receive the dreaded middle-of-the-night call. It's often said that there are no new stories. You could view Under the Mesquite in this way, for death of a parent isn't a new tale. But how McCall develops the relationship between Lupita and her mom, down to the symbolism of the mesquite tree, is original, and therefore makes for a memorable read. A story told through verse has a strong chance of turning ones off who are not accustomed to the format. However, I love the emotional punch McCall creates with her intense visuals. I also appreciate that the poetic form allows her to provide the perfect emotional distance from one of the most painful experiences anyone can face. Which means Under the Mesquite has further sold me on the merits of verse novels. -- review submitted by Allison H.-F. - a customer of the Bennett Martin Public Library
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