They say not to judge a book by it's cover which I find only kinda true. A bad cover shouldn't stop you from giving a book a try but a good cover can only enhance what is tucked inside those covers. The moment I looked at the cover of Gringa in a Strange Land I wanted to travel to this location. I want to walk by this building, I want to meet the people who live inside and experience all the people and places that I imagine surround this humble abode with it's weathered paint and bared window.
Linda Dahl does a wonderful job of taking you there, to a little town in Mexico, Merida. Where time lingers allowing for art, love and a lazy day-to-day living. She also crafts the perfect character to guide us through this setting, Erica a twenty something artist from America. Erica's background isn't unlike many of us, she has a white middle class family back in the states who love her but still don't quite understand her so she sets off in search of answers and experience, she sets out in search of life.
What Erica finds are men, drugs and a crazy, lazy, hyper active existence. All the while she tries to paint, tries to release her inner artist but somehow finds herself back in the same circles and the same old routines. Every step she takes seems at first to be a step in the wrong direction but as the book progresses you find that each little mistake (much like real life) is a learning experience that will make her into the woman and artist she longs to be.
Gringa in a Strange Land is written in snippets that at first seem disjointed and, to me, a bit confusing but as I moved through the book each piece began to fall into place. I got to know the characters and truly felt for and with Erica in the perfect way a reader should be connected to the main character of a book. Someone called this a "coming of age story" but that doesn't feel right, Erica isn't becoming an adult she is deciding to take control and become responsible for herself and what she wants in life, by the end of Gringa in a Strange Land instead of searching blindly for answers she is making the things she wants happen one step at a time.
Linda Dahl has written extensively about Latin America, jazz, New Orleans and other topics that interest her over a thirty year career as a published author. She has lived in Ecuador, Brazil, Mexico, and New York and currently lives in an old farmhouse with lots of flowers and pets. A widow, she has a daughter and a stepson. You can find more information about Ms. Dahl as well as her other publications by visiting her website www.lindadahl.com
p.s. I received this book as part of Linda Dahl's virtual book tour through Pump Up Your Book Promotions.
Sunday, January 10, 2010