Briefly Noted: ‘The Ghost of Milagro Creek’ by Melanie Sumner
Some books immerse readers into other worlds. This is one of them. Welcome to a New Mexico barrio where love and murder, and ghosts and the living become tangled up in a conscious landscape.
Georgia author Melanie Sumner (“How to Write a Novel,” “The School of Beauty and Charm,” and “Polite Society”) found her inspiration for the novel while living in New Mexico. She researched serial killers for a model for the protagonist for The Ghost of Milagro Creek (Algonquin, 2010) and struck out. Remembering the advice of her creative writing instructor, she realized serial killers are heartless and her protagonist very much needed a heart.
Mister does have a heart and it will make you cry.
From the Publisher
“The story of Ignacia Vigil Romero, a full Jacarilla Apache, and the two boys, Mister and Tomás, she raised to adulthood unfolds in a barrio of Taos, New Mexico—a mixed community of Native Americans, Hispanics, and whites. Now deceased, Ignacia, a curandera—a medicine woman, though some say a witch—begins this tale of star-crossed lovers.
“Mister and Tomás, best friends until their late teens, both fall for Rocky, a gringa of some mystery, a girl Tomás takes for himself. But in a moment of despair, a pledge between the young men leads to murder. When Ignacia falls silent, police reports, witness statements, and caseworker interviews draw an electrifying portrait of a troubled community and of the vulnerable players in this mounting tragedy. Set in a terrain that becomes a character in its own right, The Ghost of Milagro Creek brilliantly illuminates this hidden corner of American society.”
Reviewer’s Comment: “[Ghost of Milagro Creek] is a little miracle for the way it bridges and leads and leaps, the way it frustrates and calms and punishes the reader who willingly goes willingly over these stepping stones…I found this novel worth my time, and so feel it will be worth yours, especially if you have an interest in New Mexico, in American Indian cosmology, in narrative structure and approaches, in good storytelling.” – The Rumpus
Beginning of Chapter One: “When I passed away, some people swore that Andre Pettit whould refused me a proper Christian burial. Only in Taos, Mexico, they said, would you hold a wake for a witch. In the barrio at the edge of town, my neighbors called ne Abuela, which means grandmother, but behind my back, their tongues snapped like flags in the wind.”
Bottom line: a wild pilgrimage through forbidden territory.