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A fascinating novel set in MEXICO (Guest Review by Isobel Blackthorn)

11th July 2023

Witches by Brenda Lozano, a fascinating novel set in Mexico. Translated by Heather Cleary.

A fascinating novel set in MEXICO

Witches is a novel written in the style of memoir as journalist Zoe from New Mexico sets off to the tiny village of San Felipe in Jalisco province northwest of Mexico City to investigate the story of Paloma, a murdered curandera or traditional healer. Meanwhile Paloma’s cousin Feliciana narrates her own story as an indigenous healer. As Feliciana grows to understand Paloma’s wisdom through her own reflections, Zoe gains a stronger sense of self.

The current appetite for gender diversity in fiction is satisfied in Witches, Paloma herself being neither male nor female but Muxe, a gender identity that results in her relinquishing her position as healer as she is forced to cope with hostility and abuse. And machismo or male-dominance and the suppression of female voices is laid bare and countered by both narrators.

Witches is not an easy read. Zoe and Feliciana’s narrative voices are distinct. Zoe tells her story in the typical punchy style of the journalist, whereas Feliciana’s narration is fluid and lyrical and repetitive, almost stream of consciousness in style. It is a style that takes a little getting used to and the repetitions may annoy some, especially in the English language. I dipped into the Spanish edition and preferred it simply because the language itself lends itself to sweeping sentences. The translation, I must add, is superb. In all the narration is unpretentious, gifting the reader with valuable insights on a number of levels. Witches is clearly very well-researched and as such offers rich descriptions of the healing ways of old, although perhaps at the expense of plot. But then, this is literary fiction! And the interior, introspective orientation of the story means anyone unfamiliar with Mexico is not going to be given thick descriptions of setting. But what the reader does get instead is in my view worth having.

Steeped in Mexican culture and folklore, and juxtaposing contemporary Mexico with the ancient traditions of healing and shamanism, Witches is a masterful book with a distinctly female sentiment.

Isobel Blackthorn for the TripFiction Team

Guest Review by Isobel Blackthorn

Isobel is a prolific Australian novelist. She writes both contemporary/literary, thrillers and dark fiction. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and via her website. 

A fascinating novel set in MEXICO

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