“‘Come, I’ll walk you back to where we found you, and then you can show us where your home is.’
‘That’s a great idea. Yes, please, and then I’ll let you meet my moms and you’ll see that I don’t need a psychiatrist.’
Roger walked her toward the front door and out of the house. ‘You were lying there, under the devil’s oak tree,’ Roger pointed.
Daniela looked around, trying to find something, anything familiar.”
Santa Muerte is the promising debut novel of New Jersey therapist Lucina Stone. Stone delivers thrilling plot twists, stunning bits of Mexican folklore, and a gritty perspective on being a person of color in this story about young woman Daniela Delgado.
The adventure begins in rural Mexico years before Daniela’s birth. Emma Delgado wants to escape the clutches of her mother Anaya’s suffocating grip over her and has made up her mind to leave for good. She agrees to her mother’s last request of her–to spend one night with a handsome, charismatic man. The result, the reader can infer, is Daniela.
Flash-forward to the year 2030. Daniela has just arrived home from another semester at Georgetown, and she surprises her two moms, Emma and Monica, with her new boyish haircut. But her new look doesn’t help her feel better coming out of an abusive relationship, just like her mothers’ eternal doting and love can’t push aside her life-long feelings of loneliness and the fear she’s crazy. Early the next morning, she packs a bag of rope, jogs past the park near the woods, chooses an old sturdy oak, and–
Wakes up in 1923, sore like she’s just been beaten. The farmer who finds her mistakes her for a boy, and she goes along with it. When it becomes apparent that staying with this family is not the best idea, she and the farmer’s daughter, Daphne, escape to New York City.
But this isn’t the NYC of 2030. This is the NYC of 1923, with signs declaring “No Mexicans, No Negroes, No Dogs” and a horrifying “brown paper bag” test of acceptable skin color. Daniela, who is half-Mexican, is considered “colored” and is jeered at, insulted, and demeaned. Her deepening depression is lifted only when she realizes her cell phone still works (which both unsettles and amuses her), and she receives a text from a man named Lain. Lain seems to know Daniela’s grandmother, but how could that be possible? And why does he keep talking about a coven and curanderas? It quickly becomes evident that Daniela knows virtually nothing about her own background and what it means for who SHE is.
In the meantime, her mother Emma and grandmother Anaya have briefly reconciled their differences and are working desperately to find Daniella and bring her home. Creating a spirit familiar and shape-shifting are only a couple of the outrageous ideas about her own power that Emma must face about her responsibility to her family, herself, and Daniella.
I really enjoyed this read overall. The plot was fresh and exciting, and I was drawn in. Time travel stories can be amazing or cheesy (in my opinion), so I was glad to see that this one tended more toward the good side. One major criticism is the style of writing itself was really heavy on the “telling” side, for example, “Monica spoke like she had rehearsed this speech many times,” and “Emma walked over and grabbed the cross with the intent to toss it into the fire.” Most of the time I felt like I was reading a story for younger readers because of this, until getting to scenes of violence, sexuality, and profanity, which was jarring as those scenes contained a lot more imagery and made it almost feel like another story altogether.
However, I did feel connected to the characters, and the historical research really shone through. Also, the book disclosed a lot about Mexican folk culture through the characters of the Delgado family. It was really fascinating!
Overall, I consider this a good read! It was entertaining, informative, and speaks out about issues of race and identity. And it’s fun! So if you want a quick jaunt through a century of women working together to save each other and themselves, look no further! Here it is!
About the Author
Lucina Stone hails from eastern New Jersey where she runs a private counseling practice specializing in depression, family conflict, and life coaching. She and her husband have been married for 15 years and have two children. She is currently working on writing a children’s book and Book 2 of The Daniela Story. You can find and follow her on Twitter.
For another review of this book, visit Whitney @ Brown Books and Green Tea!
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