I took the opportunity to assess my bookshelf in hopes of finding a good read that could occupy me this spring break. Ultimately, I settled on Mexican Gothic by Silva Moreno-Garcia, and, boy, am I happy I did.
Just to preface the hype, here’s a brief synopsis: the story is set in 1950s Mexico. The main character, Noemi, is not your typical 22-year-old in the ‘50s; she likes fancy dresses, dancing with men, and attending college.One night, her father calls her home early from a party and gives her a letter written by her ill cousin, Catalina. The letter worries her, and her father sends her off to The High Place, located in the Mexican countryside, to see how she is doing.
Upon arriving at The High Place, Noemi notices something off about the worn-down mansion. The house is on a hill, isolated from the small town below, with no paved roads. The cars are old-fashioned, there’s a cemetery on the property of past family members, and the house walls creak as though they have so much to say.
Catalina’s new English husband, Virgil, is both haunting and appealing, while his father, Doyle, is an ancient creep. Virgil’s aunt, Florence, is strict and cold. The three servants in the household do not pay any attention to anything except their duties. The only warm presence in the house is Virgil’s cousin, Francis.
The family refuses to send Catalina to a psychiatrist – Florence and Virgil claim their family doctor can cure her. When Noemi asks about her condition, all she is told is she is depressed and sickly, nothing more.
Even weirder, Florence enforces strange rules for Noemi to follow – she must not talk during meals, she cannot leave the house unsupervised, cannot drive, cannot smoke in the house, and cannot visit Catalina unsupervised. When she does get a chance to finally see her cousin, she notices the loss of life in her eyes.
One day, Francis sneaks Noemi into town; Catalina gave her instructions to visit an herbalist to get her a potion to help her sleep. She finds the woman and pays her with cigarettes to make the potion. This is where Noemi finds out more information about the Doyle family and The High Place.
The longer Noemi stays at The High Place, the more delusional she becomes. She begins to have these weird, realistic dreams about the house and past residents, which urge Noemi to believe Catalina. With Francis’ help, they come up with a plan to escape.
This story was insane. At first, I thought the story was moving slowly; I was confused as to why a few scenes would be in there, especially the dreams where the other residents connected to Noemi. However, as the story started picking up, everything made more sense.
Nevertheless, the pacing of the story was slow in the beginning and quick to wrap up at the end. I was a little disappointed with this and felt Moreno-Garcia could have done a better job spreading the storyline out.
The way Moreno-Garcia transitioned between reality and dreams was smooth, and at no point was I confused about whether it was reality or a dream. At the same time, the dreams felt real, and I was able to feel the anxiety Noemi was experiencing.
The ending of the book left off on a bit of a cliffhanger–I have questions that are still unanswered—and I do not know if Moreno-Garcia will make a second book or if this will be a standalone. If the book is a standalone, Moreno-Garcia should have addressed all unanswered questions before the end, regardless of her intentions.
Moreno-Garcia did a great job creating the characters. When first introduced to the Doyle family, they appeared to be enthusiastic about protecting the family and the mansion. In a sense, this trait follows them through the whole story, but for all the wrong reasons. She also does well with mixing the plot and character development, as we get to see the growths of Noemi, Catalina, and Francis throughout the story.
If you are a fan of horror, goth, plot-twists, and a hint of romance, this is the book for you. Beware, though, of themes of sexual harassment, sexism, and racism against Mexicans, as well as for reading this book at night alone.