Gringa in a Strange Land by Linda Dahl
Published: Jan 2010
Gringa in a Strange Land brings back the 'counterculture' of the early 70's, an exhilarating and confusing time for so many young people then. Erica Mason, an American woman living in Mexico, is torn between working to become an artist and the lure of the drug culture. Set mostly in the colonial city of Merida in the Yucatan peninsula, the story then moves among Mayan ruins, laid-back beaches and the cities of Belize and Oaxaca. A host of bohemian expats and Mexicans, and the complex character of Mexico itself, infuse this portrait-of-the-artist-as-a-young-American, that culminates in an unexpected resolution.
Once again I found myself pleasantly surprised. This was a really good book, by the blurb I was intrigued and it was so much more than just that blurb. There was something in the tone of things, the language, and we lal know I love good language.
This review in the beginning spoke about a Bildungsroman, and yes I see that. They did also mention a certain book by James Joyce, the book that shall not me mentioned since I get bored even thinking about it. So I shall pretend not to have read that.
I on the other hand came to think about On the Road by Jack Kerouac, why, I do not know, I read that book years ago but still I came to think about it. There must have been something about the way she wrote and how the story flowed.
This is the story about Erica Mason, a young artist living in Mexico, a child of the hippie era and revolution. She spends her time with a bunch of characters, she meets a lot of men. Bad men, men she like, and men that are married. She sleeps with the, and she also feels bad because of this. Because when she wakes up it is all alone again. But the biggest problem for her are the drugs, the ludes that she is hooked on, she does try other things too, but she crave quaaludes. She is addicted, struggling with her art and life in Mexico.
I had to like her, I could feel her pain sometimes, the wanting of something more. Yes she was hooked, didn't choose her men that well, but she had soul, she had spirit. In the end she was lost. There are a lot of other cha characters that come and go in this book. Sharon that she lived with, the Doctor that gives her the ludes, and many more colourful characters. But it is Erica that has the centerstage, this is her journey.
Why did I like this book then? Well it is the tone, the language, her journey, the little things the book takes up. The story feels so real and present. It had this easy flow to it, and sometimes I felt caught up in her head while she was high.
The culture is also present, Linda Dahl mentions stories, places, the old Mayans. And of course we can't forget the era, hippies, flower children, angry youths, revolution in the air. That it catches well, the 70's is perfect for this book.
Blodeuedd's Cover Corner: I want to live in a blue house too
Reason for reading: I got this copy from the author
Final thoughts: Just let yourself get swept away