- Paperback: 422 pages
- Publisher: Almendro Arts (August 23, 2017)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0998840300
- ISBN-13: 978-0998840307
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 2 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,470,506 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Understanding the Alacran Paperback – August 23, 2017
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"LaPoma obviously knows Mexico well, framing the nation not by its problems but by the hearts of its people . . . the descriptions of Mexican locales are as vibrant, colorful, and illuminating as the novel's unique characters. The author can write about serious things with humor, and Will's tale shows an understanding of Mexico that goes beyond the ordinary."
"I loved Understanding the Alacran. Loved. It. . . beautifully written, funny, moving and all-round wonderful coming of age story. LaPoma has done an excellent job in creating characters that his readers will be able to connect with, relate to and truly come to care about. Absolutely read this book. . . My very highest recommendation."
-Chris Fischer, Readers Favorite, 5 Stars
"LaPoma takes time to create a sense of people, place, and why situations evolve; not just how - and these elements are what gives the story added value and impact as the landscapes of Mexico and William's psyche immerse readers in the mental and physical atmosphere of the story . . . an appealing, engrossing story that moves beyond the traditional coming of age approach to add social and cultural concerns into the mix . . . Given the latest state of affairs between the U.S. and Mexico, its undercurrent of social understanding and issues mixed with psychological examination makes it an especially relevant, timely read."
-Diane Donovan, Midwest Book Review
"Unique and accessible . . . brilliant story that explores the evil of drugs, a man's struggle for freedom, and redemption through love . . . the finish is awesome."
-Divine Zape, Readers Favorite, 5 Stars
"I enjoyed the protagonist's journey, the passage from despair to hope, and above all, the search for inner freedom. Readers will also love the compelling characters and the way the author captures Mexican culture, its beautiful setting with its smells and sounds in this inspiring tale . . . a wonderful coming-of-age story."
-Arya Fomonyuy, Readers Favorite, 4 Stars
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To assuage the conundrum of the title, alacrán is the Spanish word for scorpion. Jonathan places this story in Mexico, and as background he offers a paean to that country ‘I’d arrived in Mexico four months earlier. The trip was long and an experience in itself. I flew from Buffalo to Cleveland to Houston to Guadalajara, and in Guadalajara I took a wild cab ride to the central bus station where I boarded a bus to Lila. The bus ride was peaceful and helped to dilute several of the nagging voices of ‘reason’ I hoped to dissolve in whatever solvent the Mexican people had to offer. The bus itself was comfortable and would have been empty if not for the two giggling girls sitting to my right. My attention, however, was focused through the window to my left. It was late, but the dying amber sun held on just long enough to cast a bronze hue on the lush fields and jagged mountains beyond them— a cordial greeting for this strange white man. For hours I stared at the small fruit stands and taquerias and auto garages that lined the highway. The dusk had drawn the people from the protective cover of their homes. Shoeless jugadores played soccer matches on dirt fields lit by streetlights, while others worked on cars and smiled. Others stood talking, laughing over god knows how many beers, while elderly men and women sat in lawn chairs, quietly basking in the company of those around them. There were great fields of tall grass with fires burning in the distance, flames leaping off the world like brilliant, localized solar flares. There were big gorgeous mountains on the horizon, and every so often a moonlit river would cut through a forest of towering palms as if for nothing other than to please the hungry eyes my inadequate soul had been so longing to satiate. The girls to my right would shoot me intermittent glances, then whisper and giggle. Their hushed words weren’t necessary. Even if I could have understood them, I don’t think I would have paid them any attention.’
Throughout this fine novel LaPoma shares insights into the Mexican people as well as any writer today. He dissects the anguish of coming of age, drugs, the struggle for freedom, despair and its antidote – hope. All this he delivers with eloquence and humor.
To borrow a bit from the book’s plot synopsis, ‘Trying to escape the oppression leading him to drinking, drugs, and despair, 22-year-old William James rejects a teaching position offer at a prestigious Buffalo high school and moves to Mexico to find freedom in its beaches, mountains, and culture. But soon, this freedom becomes oppressive as well as William finds himself unable to avoid the pull of the wild party scene in the small town of Lila where he lives. He continues a downward spiral until he meets a complex and compassionate Mexican woman whose love inspires him to face the question he's been avoiding: Is this trip a desperate search for life or a slow death? A dark but humorous coming-of-age novel, UNDERSTANDING THE ALACRÁN explores many of the questions that haunt young people searching for love and their place in this world, and offers a poetic look at the raw beauty and healing power of Mexico.’
That is a fine summary, but what it does not allow is to feel the beauty of Jonathan’s writing style and the infectious manner in which he pulls us into this mélange. Conversations are raw, turgid, and right on the money, and just when the reader feels this is all dark comedy, Jonathan waxes poetic – and the change is seamless. This is yet another brilliant book from a very promising new author. He is one to watch. Grady Harp, August 17
Also on my blog
I’ve expanded my vocabulary in such little page time. *Chapter 1* (Alacran, Trivial, Reefer, Reticent, ect.)
It has been quite humorous and relatable. The description is bulletproof and incredible. “I watched him cook up, pierce his skin, milk blood, and empty the evil liquid into his arm.” The weave of friendship encounters are certainly authentic. Easily enjoyable, for sure!
It flows really well, and is jam packed with useful detail which makes it easy to visualize. I really enjoyed reading it as male lead. I got insight into a guys brain, his thoughts, feelings, ect. It’s neat as a woman to be able to almost first-hand see what he’s like; as a male. If that makes sense?
The nicknames cracked me up! I couldn’t help but laugh throughout the chapters. I wasn’t the biggest fan of Sal (side character) honestly, I just couldn’t pace with him. There was a disinterest for me. Although this book was full of legitimate humor, it was full of truth as well.
The characters weren’t flat, they had shining personalities, and easily pictured.
I really loved this book, it just wasn’t great at keeping my attention. I couldn’t focus while reading this, I wasn’t really connected. The plot and everything was perfect and I wanted to just get my attention together to read it but it was difficult.
(I received this in like May? So it’s been a while. I feel TERRIBLE for taking so long, honestly.)
Other than that, this book was really good and funny, sometimes we need a good laugh. This book will definitely give you that!!
Thank you so much for sending me an ARC of this : Jonathan LaPoma
Short Girl Out, Signed;