Recommendation Tuesday: Under the Mesquite by Guadalupe Garcia McCall
Recommendation Tuesday started as a joke and is now an official thing. If you've got a book to recommend on this or any Tuesday, tweet me at @FullShelves and I'll help spread the word.
This week's Recommendation Tuesday is part of our Verse Novel Week celebration! View all of the past recommendations over here.
When I get ready to put together Verse Novel Week each year, I always try to (rather foolishly) get caught up on verse novels I've missed and check out as many as I can find from the library. This year, my pile reached fairly ridiculous proportions, but at the top was Guadalupe Garcia McCall's Under the Mesquite, which came highly recommended by Nafiza, who has excellent taste.
Under the Mesquite is one of those books that will just suck you into its words and rhythm, and the verse format adds so much to that feeling as Garcia McCall weaves together Mexican American immigrant Lupita's story of family, loss and hope.
Lupita's family immigrated to Texas from Mexico when she was a child and the large, happy family leans on Lupita as the oldest child to be their anchor. Never was the family's need for her greater than when her mother is stricken with cancer. As her father takes her mother to a clinic out-of-town, the responsibilities of caring for her seven siblings weigh on Lupita, an actor and writer who dreams of attending college.
In order to cope with the pressure, she takes refuge with her notebook under the mesquite tree in their yard, confiding her fears and finding her voice.
Garcia McCall elegantly plays with language in this book, mixing Spanish words into the story in a way that is absolutely beautiful, and why verse was the only way this story could be told. I understand only the tiniest bits of Spanish, but I didn't need to understand the words to understand the story and connect with the flow of the words. (There is a glossary in the back, which I didn't notice until I finished reading.)
In many ways, that epitomizes why verse is such a special format. Yes, it's about the words, but there's more to verse than just the words. The spacing on the page, the rhythm, the feelings evoked, are all heightened in the verse format.
If you're looking for a beautiful read about family and identity and growing up, you'd have a hard time finding much that trumps Under the Mesquite.