Book Review: The Earthquake Machine by: Mary Pauline Lowry



Publish Date:
January 22, 2012 (e-book)

From Author for Review


Order From: 
Amazon / Barnes & Noble

The Earthquake Machine tells the story of 14 year-old Rhonda. On the outside, everything looks perfect in Rhonda’s world, but at home Rhonda has to deal with a manipulative father who keeps her mentally ill mother hooked on pharmaceuticals. The only reliable person in Rhonda’s life is her family’s Mexican yardman, Jesús. But when the INS deports Jesús back to his home state of Oaxaca, Rhonda is left alone with her increasingly painful family situation.

Determined to find her friend Jésus, Rhonda seizes an opportunity to run away during a camping trip with friends to Big Bend National Park. She swims to the Mexican side of the Rio Grande and makes her way to the border town of Milagros, Mexico. There a peyote- addled bartender convinces her she won’t be safe traveling alone into the country’s interior. So with the bartender’s help, Rhonda cuts her hair and assumes the identity of a Mexican boy named Angel. She then sets off on a burro across the desert to look for Jesús. Thus begins a wild adventure that fulfills the longing of readers eager for a brave and brazen female protagonist.

Review: Rhonda lives in a house where her father rules and her mother’s spirit has been crushed through her husband’s badgering and pharmaceuticals. Rhonda has heard stories from her godmother about how carefree and vivacious her mother was before life with her father. Rhonda’s only solace at home is the gardener, Jésus, a man from Mexico trying to make money for his mother back home. He teaches her about his culture and his language. Then even that small happiness is taken away.

Once Jésus is deported and her mother is dead, Rhonda’s world starts to collapse. She finds out her father has been having an affair and he pushed her mother into an early grave. On a fatherless ‘father-daughter’ vacation, Rhonda decides she needs a new start. She escapes over the border into Mexico, reborn as Angel, a Mexican boy. Experiencing many trials and tribulations before locating Jésus and his mother, Angel grows into his skin. Once Jésus is found, Angel must once again become Rhonda. Yet Rhonda isn’t fully happy there either. She explores and challenges the rigid gender, racial, and religious roles on her journey…and has some interesting experiences with The Earthquake Machine.

The Earthquake Machine is a down and dirty tale of Rhonda’s journey to maturity and adulthood. Not every woman’s awakening is easy – just like our original birth into this world, it can be messy and bloody and absolutely confusing. Rhonda is a very likeable character as Ms. Lowry has given her a distinctive voice. Deeply rooted in both the US and Mexican cultures, Ms. Lowry has blended the two with grace and ease which make reading The Earthquake Machine an enjoyable experience. While I’ve seen others comment on the choice of the book cover as not fitting, I feel the book cover truly embodies Rhonda and her story. Well done and highly recommended!

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like a great book to read when you need a break from contemporary high school settings. This is the first time I've heard of it. Thanks for great review. Added to my tbr pile:-)


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