What did I just read? I feel like I just woke up from the worst dream imaginably, after sleeping like the dead for 12 hours straight. My head is pounding, I'm not sure where I am, and I can't tell if the dream was really a dream or reality.
Hurricane Season by Fernanda Melchor is a storm of massive proportions revolving around a small, Mexican town and a murder that is the eye of the storm. This book in translation was originally written and published in Mexico and has since been translated into several languages. Melchor is a force to be reckoned with and Hurricane Season is proof of that. Written in rambling prose, it feels as though you are inside the heads of the characters, listening to all of their deepest, darkest thoughts, while trying to understand what happened in this tiny, forgotten town. I honestly felt like I was in a trance as I read this book. I compare it to accident gawking or rubbernecking, it's horrific and traumatic, but your morbid fascination kicks in and you can't look away.
This book felt like reading a whirl wind of thoughts from the characters of this Mexican town. This town could be anywhere, it probably is somewhere, and the poverty, harsh climate conditions, and corrupt government officials breed the violence and depravity that the residents experience. This town essentially created and murdered a witch, without batting an eye. A witch who was just a person, but through rumors, greed, and curiosity, the witch is born and the law enforcement officials do nothing to stop the violence. Heck, they practically instigate it. This town is essentially forgotten and left to it's own devices. The witches murder becomes an afterthought at times as you are introduced to character after character with their own traumas and experiences.
The character that will always stay with me is Norma. Sweet, Norma. She has to take care of her younger siblings, watches her youngest brother die from malnutrition and cold, and is sexually assaulted by her step father. She winds up pregnant and seeks an abortion. When she is in the hospital, the nurses and social workers treat her like a murderer and monster, with no regard to how she even got pregnant at the age of thirteen. I can't help but wonder how many Norma's there are out there...
I highly recommend you read the articles I linked below and check out own voices reviews of Hurricane Season. You will have a better understanding of the purpose behind the book and develop a deeper appreciation and respect for the story. Reading own voices reviews and interview articles helped me unpack my thoughts and feelings after I read this conflicting book.
I am having a difficult time rating this Hurricane Season. No star rating here, but it is worth the read (if you are prepared for it.) This book is not for everyone.
Articles worth the read:
New York Times article: A Mexican Novel Conjures a Violent World Tinged With Beauty
Explicit language and sex scenes, death/murder, rape, molestation, homophobia, prostitution, alcohol and drug abuse, mental illness.