THE GHOST OF MILAGRO CREEK by Melanie Sumner
â€śTen minutes later, when Mister regained consciousness on the bank of the river, he learned that Tomas had dived in with a knife in his mouth and cut the sandal free from an entanglement of fishing line. For the most part it was all a blur, but sometimes he thought he remembered rising to the surface in Tomasâ€™s grip â€“ the slam of their hearts against each other and the keening sorrow of love.â€ť
Review by Jill Shtulman (JUL 6, 2010)
Every now and then, a â€śstealth bookâ€ť comes along â€“ one that surprises you, captures you in its grip, and doesnâ€™t let go until you turn the last page.
The Ghost of Milagro Creek is such a book.
I expected this book to be something else entirely â€“ a light mystery about two blood brothers who vied for the same gringo girl in the Cain-and-Abel tradition. In reality, the book is lyrical, poignant, and from time to time, electrifying. It depicts the life of the Taos barrio colorfully and â€“ in my mind â€“ authentically.
Milagro Creek is the story of Ignancia Vigil Romero, a Jicarilla (basket weaver) Apache and a curandera (medicine woman, or some might say, witch) and the two sons she raises to adulthood: Mister and Tomas. It is filled with secondary characters who jump off the pages â€“ Raquel Oâ€™Brien, the gringo short-story writer, Chief, a bipolar man who establishes a local sweat house, the very fallible priest Manny Petit and a host of others.
The immersion into Taos life is described at one point by Petitâ€™s Right Reverend: â€śAt first, it will jump right out at you â€“ sun gods, saints dressed up like dolls, peyote buttons, nudity. Then you get used to it. You want to be politically correct and all that. Okay, then. After a while, you start to see it how they see it. When that happens, itâ€™s time to leave.â€ť
As readers, we enter this mystical world. We are present for sustoâ€”the live burial of the child Mister until â€śthe bud of (his) soul began to swellâ€¦pushing outward with mysterious force.â€ť We hear the tales that are the framework for the Jicarilla Apache life. We see the rivalry of the blood brothers becoming more and more potent. And we get into the rhythm of the natural world and all its mysteries and glories.
The denouement is played out in all sorts of ways â€“ through police reports, witness statements, case worker interviews, short-story snippets written by Raquel (Rocky), and a pilgrimage to Chimayo â€“ an actual event that takes place in New Mexico. This is not a linear book; it bounces back and forth in time, switches narrators (a big part is narrated by Ignacia, who is already dead of ALS at the books onset), and saunters back to ancient tales as it bobs and weaves it way to the conclusion. The mystical Taos landscape is every bit as much of a â€ścharacterâ€ť as the humans; as Ignacia says to Mister, â€śRock, sky womanâ€¦this is your mother.â€ť
Melanie Sumner has created an authentic and heartbreaking book that will stay with me. I urge you to discover it for yourself.
|AMAZON READER RATING:||from 12 readers|
|PUBLISHER:||A Shannon Ravenel Book; 1 edition (July 6, 2010)|
|AVAILABLE AS A KINDLE BOOK?||YES! Start Reading Now!|
|AUTHOR WEBSITE:||Melanie SumnerWikipedia page on Melanie Sumner|
|EXTRAS:||Reading Guide and Excerpt|
|MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION:||Another good a Native American read: