Book Review: Understanding the Alacran by Jonathan LaPoma

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Synopsis:

-Silver Medal Winner of the 2017 FAPA President’s Awards (Contemporary/Literary category)

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.

My Review:

Will moves from Buffalo to Mexico to try to find some freedom while living with his friend Sal in a place called Lila. In Lila, besides the locals, he meets some people that like him are just looking for an escape and to explore Mexico.

Things are not easy for Will, yes there’s a lot of partying, drinking and meeting women but the cultural differences and the language barrier proves to be a struggle, especially at the beginning.

This book and Will’s experience while in Mexico shows how living on a budget in a different country can be a hardship, how prejudices can go both ways and the real weight of dealing with insecurities and society expectations.

The descriptions of the places Will visited during his stay in Mexico are good and it was a nice surprise to find out that I’d been to some of the cities mentioned in the book and, reading, made me go back to the times I visited some of them (like San Cristobal de las Casas, Guadalajara, Mexico City, Vallarta, Guanajuato and Puebla).

The writing is engaging, with the right flow and a dose of dark humor to make it an enjoyable read that I would recommend.

I found myself highlighting many parts of this book and next are some of my favorite quotes:

“And it was that very face that drew me – a beauty that could cut through any chaos without losing a hint of resolution”.

“It’s ok, Will. Keep writing. Maybe someday you’ll realize your ‘nothing’ is really something beautiful”

“The darkness had made its way back in full force. It was crippling and consumed me whole. I’d gotten away for a short time, but when it caught up again, it hit me with an extra viciousness – perhaps to punish me for running. Nobody truly gets away”.

“It was soft, and organic, and visceral. I felt alive in the darkness – alive and not alone. This was the Mexico I’d fled to see. The Mexico I’d invited to  sweep me away”.

Rating:  ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

* I received a free copy from the author through a Goodreads Group.

Photography and Travel: A fascination for Sharks and my Bucket List

Yesterday I was watching an old Season of Shark Week and it made think how, since I can remember, I always had a fascination for sharks.

One of the things on the top of my bucket list was to get into one of those cages that people use to see sharks closely (like on the Discovery Channel’s shows) and years ago when I traveled to Cancun, Mexico I had the opportunity to visit an Aquarium there. This aquarium had a tank with multiple sharks (nurse sharks, lemon sharks and I think even a bull shark).

I was really excited watching all those sharks trough the glass and even more when I realized that they had the option to get into the tank to watch them closely and even feed them (I thought: Ok, I’m going to do this now, I don’t think I’ll be going to a beach in South Africa or Australia in the near future).

After getting ready I got into an acrylic cage that was later placed inside the shark’s tank (one of the aquarium employees was in the cage too, giving instructions and for safety reasons).

Was I scared? Of course, even when I was safe in the cage I think is normal to be scared if there are sharks around you.
Was I excited? Definitely, maybe it was not a cage in the middle of the Sea but to watch the sharks so close was amazing and I’ll never forget it.

To finish this post I want to share with you a picture from that day (I’m holding a metal bar to feed the sharks with fish).

Cancún Tiburones 020 - Copy