Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Well in Time: A Novel by Suzan Still

Well in Time: A Novel.  Suzan Still. The Story Plant.  January 2015. 400 pp. paperback and e-book. ISBN #: 9781611881844.

Javier Cartena and Calypso Searcy have returned in this sequel to Feast of Smoke and are again deliberately and inadvertently spun into a cycle of violence and divine intervention that keeps spinning and spinning and spinning.  Javier and Calypso, as well as their good friend Hill who is an investigative journalist, are as deeply in love as ever.  But they are not to have any piece due to the prevailing drug cartels thriving in Mexico, one of whom will attack Javier’s ranch.  Javier will stay behind to defend his home and Calypso is about to begin a journey that involves crawling through tube-like caves barely fitting any human being.

In the process of this fantastic journey, stories within stories will be told, like a Russian Matryoshka nesting doll, revealing layers and layers of mystery, myth, legend, all emanating the sacred.  The tales involve communities worshiping the Great Mother, Isis, also known as Mary in Christian circles.  They involve the marriage of Egyptian gods and goddesses and the enmity arising in their children, the efforts of some to squelch the worship of these divine beings in medieval Europe, and so much more. The journey also involves Calypso being saved and threatened by a group known as “The Ghosts,” criminals who are reformed but who use a dangerous drug to get information from those who would eliminate them. All of these stories and events will culminate with a gift to Calypso that is approximately 4,000 years old, a gift bequeathed by the descendant of the Great Mother herself, a piece of jewelry that only a woman can wear and which gifts the wearer with dreams of the future or occurrences in the present in different places.

Well in Time reminded this reviewer of the magical realism novels of great writers like Gabriela Garcia Marquez, Mario Vargas Llosa and Isabella Allende, weaving the sacred and the profane; past, present and future; love and hate, the beauty and the ugly within and without nature and so much more.  Suzan Still is more than a novelist; she’s a literary giant with a gift for beautiful prose, brilliant plotting and revealing characterization that enhances every page of this phenomenally constructed novel.  Kudos to you, Suzan Still – and please, please, please keep writing!

Fiesta of Smoke by Suzan Still

Fiesta of Smoke.  Suzan Still. The Story Plant.  September 2013. 511 pp. paperback and e-book. ISBN #: 9781611881127.

Javier Cartena and Calypso Searcy – two loves that fuel passion for life and revolution in Mexico!  As they describe it, “We hold one another as if arms were a bond that can never be broken.  Until we are only a swirl of ash in this fiesta of smoke, still dancing.”  But this love has a deeper, richer story that makes the reader he or she has entered a magical world covering a span of 50 years. It concerns the above-named two characters and an investigative journalist, Hill, who becomes enamored of Calypso in Paris, France earlier in the 20th century.  After two brief but mesmerizing meetings, Hill knows he is in love but also senses that Calypso, a teacher and writer, is in very deep trouble.  After he finds her home ransacked and destroyed by an unknown marauder, he sets out to find her and his journey takes him to Mexico.
Hill, although a seasoned journalist who can sniff out the most secretive elements of a great journalistic story, finds himself totally unprepared for the scenarios he is about to undergo.  He takes us through stories within stories, one about a wealthy financier who suffers, to the point of insanity, over what his very wealthy family has done to the indigenous people of Mexico.  It is only now that he is dying that he decides to repent beyond the actual physical self-flagellation he practices for his crime.  He wills a huge portion of his fortune to a servant, whose only job will be to see it goes to save the native Mexicans from the repression, oppression and terrible suffering they are experiencing from politicians, administrators, the local police and now the Mexican Army.  This is the story of native men, women and children who have fled murder, rape, and other travesties to unite under Javier and his guerilla troops.  They are starving physically but now are reviving mentally and emotionally under Javier’s guidance.  Javier is no ignorant revolutionary; he has used his education to spend years uniting agricultural workers, truckers, and more community-minded natives, inspiring them to believe that hope is again possible for their deplorable situations.

The magic of this story includes the tales of a Mexican female shaman and others who are all part of this struggle.  The language is beautiful beyond description. Calypso is the life-giving woman whose love enables Javier to continue when plans go awry; her amulet she wears around her neck enables her to sense danger and know things no human could ordinarily no, clearly an object connecting her and therefore the Mexican people to God and the Virgin of Guadalupe who are always present.

Fiesta of Smoke defies words in its intensely gorgeous prose, riveting conflicts, illusive and yet mesmerizing visions and descriptions, passionate scenes of hate and love, misunderstandings, inspiration and so much more.  This is a story that rather than being based on real life was based on a life that inspired a later Mexican revolutionary.  STUNNING, MUST, MUST READ!!!