Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Tequila Worm

by Viola Canales
Finished August 23, 2010

I love serendipity! But, maybe that's not the right word. Merriam Webster says that serendipity is "the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for."

I was searching for a good book and I found one. So, maybe it's providence:
"divine guidance or care." Ok - I guess it's just good luck.

I needed a book to read but didn't know what to read. I decided to walk down one of the aisles of the children's department, close my eyes, and read the first book my hand touched. My hand fell on The Tequila Worm. I wasn't thrilled at the time. The cover didn't look appealing and neither did the title. I showed it to some co-workers who kind of turned up their noses. The Tequila worm??

What a great book this turned out to be. I loved it for the same reasons that I loved All of a Kind Family. It's about a family of a different culture (different from my own). There is a plot, but the charm of the book is the description of the daily and yearly life of the family.

Fifteen year old Sofia is the narrator of the story. She, her Mama, Papa, and sister Lucy live in a barrio in McAllen, Texas. I'm not sure in what time period the story is set, but it's a simpler time. It's set in a time when children played outside all day and families watched out for each other. Neighbors gathered on one of the neighborhood porches to tell stories.

Ritual and tradition are such an imporant part of Sofia's family life and of her culture as well. When she gets the opportunity to go to an exclusive Episcopal boarding school in Austin, those rituals and traditions become all the more important. I loved the references to Sofia's Catholic life, although it was interesting to learn about the Mexican flavored Catholic traditions.

My favorite tradition was the nacimiento - the nativity scene. Abuela brings a big pile of mud right into the living room. The family forms little buildings depicting a town - sometimes Bethlehem, sometimes their own town of McAllen. The mud village becomes whatever Abuela wants it to be. Then each member of the family pulls a figurine out of a box. These are things that Abuela has collected and received throughout the years. The elephant figurine belongs to one of the wise men. The other two wise men have a camel and a pink plastic horse. There's a plastic dinosaur that visits the creche, looking over Mary's shoulder at the baby.

It reminds me of the first Christmas tree I ever had. I didn't have any ornaments, so I looked through my house to find things to hang from the tree. I hung a snowman cookie cutter as well as a little llama shaped sponge.

What I thought would be an unpleasant book about teen drinking or something turned out to be a sweet, wonderful story about family and tradition. What a lucky find.

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