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The Earthquake Machine Paperback – September 29, 2011
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About the Author
Mary Pauline Lowry has worked as an open water lifeguard, construction worker, forest firefighter, and advocate in the movement to end violence against women. She has an M.A. in English from the University of Texas at Austin.
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"Mary's agent didn't want to send out The Earthquake Machine to editors. The book was perhaps too edgy. Editors would be afraid to take a chance on such a wild ride. And so Mary decided to give readers a chance to find her."
There are so many things to say about this disclaimer. First...how courageous is she? To be able to understand how different your book is from mainstream fiction and to take a chance on readers finding the book is inspiring. I love that she does not want to conform to what is mainstream or politically correct. And the disclaimer is absolutely true. This book is extremely edgy and I could see many people not understanding how to take this book in or appreciate what Lowry has written. I appreciate that Lowry decided to go a different route with this novel and I'm extremely grateful it fell into my hands.
The Good: The Earthquake Machine is a dirty novel. Really, I'm not lying. It's dirty in the sense that it gets into your skin, deep down inside, scrubs all the clean out of you and then replaces everything with grit and dirt. Lowry strips away all conventions in this novel. Rhonda is not your typical girl nor will she ever be. It is so difficult to describe her as a character because by the end of the novel I grew to love her, but I was also so confused and appalled by her at points. This novel is about MANY things but a sexual awakening is very much a huge part of this novel. It's something not a lot of people are comfortable with and this novel does NOT shy away from it. Lowry is unabashedly honest in her portrayal of the way some females discover who they are sexually, mentally and physically. Rhonda goes through an incredible transformation that includes actually living life successfully pretending to be a boy for a while. She cuts her hair, changes to her name to Angel and sets out on an adventure that very rarely exists for anyone, let alone a young teenager. Rhonda/Angel questions everything and I love that about her, especially in terms of religion. She doesn't deny that it exists for some, but she doesn't quite agree that it is all that it's cracked up to be. Her strength and adversity inspire me and her discovery of who she is had me rooting for her the entire time. I think the thing I loved most about this book was the amount of Spanish and Hispanic culture that rippled through. I LOVE the Spanish language and I love Hispanic culture and this book had the perfect amount of Spanish and English within.
The Bad: I noticed on a couple of other reviews, many people felt the same way as I did about the cover. It's not that it's a terrible cover.... it's just that the book is so heavy and so amazing, this cover does not do it justice. I understand why it IS the cover but I speaking from not only a reviewer's point of view but just a wandering reader, I would not have picked this book up based on the cover. If I hadn't of received this book for review, I probably wouldn't have given it a second glance. While terrible and sad, it is unfortunately the sad truth about books. They DO get judge based on their covers and self-publishing authors need to realize that will end up being a HUGE determinate of their sales. When a cover looks and feels professional, people are drawn to it and will feel that the inside of the book will match the outside (which it should!) Other than that, the only other negative I have for the book is that some parts felt a little long winded, like they could have been cut down or cut out a bit.
Overall, I thought this book was a knockout and a truly amazing reading experience. One of the deepest, heaviest books I have read in quite a while. I give it an A!
**I received this book free from the author in exchange for an honest review. All the opinions are my own and I was not obligated to write a favorable review.
"The Earthquake Machine" is the coming-of-age story of a fourteen-year-old girl. Rhonda's family life seems perfect on the surface, but her mother has mental health issues which her pharmacist father tries to solve by force-feeding her psych meds that kill her personality. The only person she feels like she can really talk to is Jesus, the Mexican gardener. Rhonda's world is shattered when her mother commits suicide and Jesus is deported by the INS. Rhonda goes on a camping trip with her friends to try to take her mind off of everything and ends up getting molested by one of the guides. She runs away to Mexico and begins an intrepid journey of self-discovery as she begins to examine her faith, her sexuality, and her future. She struggles to accept her changing body and to find her place in the world.
When I initially read the synopsis that the author sent me, I wasn't sure what to expect. It sounded as if the book would either be very good or very bad; luckily, I enjoyed it tremendously!
Rhonda's adventures in Mexico were a pleasure to read, from her encounters with a peyote-tripping bartender to being kidnapped by a gang of female banditos. While some of Rhonda's experiences seem a bit over the top, I don't find them outside the realm of believability. This is in part due to some of my own travel adventures which sound more like fiction than reality. I enjoyed the way that the author handled the contrast between the superficiality of Rhonda's family in the US with the authenticity of Jesus' family in Mexico, because she did so in such a way as to highlight the fact that neither world was perfect.
"The Earthquake Machine" is technically young adult, although it is best for an older teenage audience. There is a decent amount of sexual content, which I thought worked well in the book. Even though some parents might have issues with the content, many teenagers do struggle with coming to terms with their sexual identities and realizing that what's happening with their bodies is completely normal. I wish that I had read something as a teenager that was this frank about it.
I normally don't read very many self-published books, but this one stands out from the crowd. "The Earthquake Machine" is extremely well-written and well-edited. I would highly recommend it!
A couple things that you should know before reading this book:
The cover makes this book look like a fantasy. It's not.
This book covers some pretty heavy topics such as sexuality and may not be appropriate for younger Young Adult readers (the treatment of this subject in the book was not my favorite; I think that it was a lot heavier than it needed to be for a young adult book).
I did really like the setting of the book. Mexico has a special place in my heart (I studied abroad in Central Mexico in college) and I really enjoyed reading about the things that Rhonda got to see and the things she experienced.
Most recent customer reviews
YA with some very adult themes, coming of age, magical realism
Note: Despite finding this on several lgbt lists...Read more