Summer of the Mariposas
Guadalupe Garcia McCall
This is it, the final installment of Summer of the Mariposas! I know you are dying to know what Maria (@mselke01 in the purple below) and I (in the blue) thought of this book. Make sure you head over to Maria's Melange to read her take on this final section. First time here? Check out the previous weeks before, then dive right in!
Week 1 - The Cover
Week 2 - The Departure
Week 3 - The Initiation
Week 4 - the Return pg 259 - 334
After that action-packed middle, this section was something of a let down. The journey home seemed to pass quickly with few obstacles to hinder any progress. Even the very final confrontation was done quietly. I think your point about reading a book as a whole may have helped here. If this chunk hadn’t been read alone, would it have bothered us as much to have it over so quickly?
Often I kept going back to the beginning to see if I could determine when Odilia is telling this story. She often came across as much older than her fifteen years or as if she’d been caring for the girls most of her life. Do you think she was looking back on these events from somewhere in the future? That’s funny - I didn’t really see her as acting too much older than fifteen. I guess it could partly be because I don’t know that age group well (I teach younger students, and my own sons are well below teen years) and partly because I assumed her maturity was partly due to being the oldest.
As soon as I was done I compared that last scene to when they dropped the dead guy off at his house. It was the night of his daughter’s quinceanera and proved to be a disruption. I thought the dad would make some sort of scene but it was over before it fully begun. I liked how we circled back but I would have liked to see more of the sister’s growth since the time in this section passed so quickly. I liked that the dad didn’t make a scene here - I think it fit with what the Virgen said to Odilia earlier about the sun needing to descend into darkness for a time in order to learn. I can hope that her father has learned from his slide into darkness, and may become a better person because of it. I agree that I wanted to learn more of the other sisters! The whole point of the “five sisters together” made me think we’d get more about them.
The Hero’s Journey: The Return
Although none of the ladies wanted to leave their grandmother, they were all anxious to return to their mother. Again I flashed back to the beginning when they paid off the attendant to get across the border and wondered why that wasn’t being done here. Was it because back then, they didn’t want to draw attention to themselves but now the task was done it was of no consequence? I guess if they were discovered on the way down - with a dead body - it would have been a bigger problem. On the way back, if they are snagged there will be a media frenzy but they’d still be sent home eventually.
We definitely had elements of the “magical flight” as well as “rescue from without”. Once again Virgen de Guadalupe (I wonder if the author is named for her) comes at the last spinning of Odilia’s earrings. This time they get to visit her (flight part 1) and then she prepares for their safe return (flight part 2) intertwining these two stages of the journey. Ahh... I didn’t analyze the journey carefully enough at this stage. I guess that “rescue from without” is a piece I missed. It’s like Han Solo sweeping in at the last moment to help Luke as he attacks the Death Star. I didn’t like how little the girls themselves had to do to return home, but I can see that it could fit with the overall type of story here.
I thought the crossing of the river as well as the meeting with dad were both parts of “crossing the return threshold”. They literally crossed on the boat in the same waters that started their journey. The scene with the father, while weird, was one Odilia and the mom both needed. It solidified Odilia’s maturity and set their mom on her journey to “...remind her who she is, who we are, and what we are all meant to become...” (275). The mom points out how everything is about to change but everything will be all right. (292-3) (Though in hindsight I wonder how she got to the station to begin with?) I found the scene with dad - especially those other girls - to be a bit over the top. Those girls are what rubbed me the wrong way while reading, though once we got more information about their mom the scene felt more realistic.
Odilia becomes the “master of two worlds” when she realizes who the flowers are for as well as when she becomes happy for her mother’s new relationship. She understands how both things will help to set the future right. Which leads to the very final part of the journey the “freedom to live”. La Llorona is set free from her wanderings and so is the family. I liked how this part turned out. While the last chunk felt like it jumped ahead too quickly, I did like how both her mother and La Llorona’s stories ended. It felt hopeful, yet real.
I enjoyed this book. I do wish that the ending was as fleshed out as the other two parts because it would have been interesting to see how the sisters matured. We know it happened along the way but what changes did this new maturity bring to their relationships with each other as well as their father? Since they’d heard rumors about the dad, can we assume he’d stayed near? Why did he ever think his scheme would work after being absent so long? I will need to reread this one in one big gulp to see how it impacts my overall enjoyment. I wanted more at the end. I didn’t really “get” the dad... but I wonder if that is more because of the background I have (with my father and husband, I just can’t even get into this dad’s head at all). I really loved so many things about the book, though. I loved the mythical entwined with the realistic. I loved the sisters. I loved the imagery. This was a winner, and I think McCall absolutely deserves the honors she’s received for it.