Saturday, July 28, 2007

Consider This, Senora by Harriet Doerr

Consider This, Senora by Harriet Doerr
Copyright 1993
Publ. by Harcourt & Brace
241 pages

Following instructions, she left the highway at a sign whose single arrow was directed toward two settlements, Seco and El Polvo. and when she passed the dozen dwellings and shriveled vegetation of the place called Dry, she saw no other name would have suited it, and when she arrived in the larger settlement of Dust she realized that was what it had to be called.

A war of colors raged from her balcony down the steep length of the road, across the plaza, and, in a final siege, up to the massive doors of the church. The housefronts that lined the way had been painted in all the shades of fruit from lemon yellow to plum purple to watermelon red. Vendors spilled rainbows of scarves and shawls onto the ground. Riotous vines, heavy with blossoms, flung themselves from eaves to balustrades to garden paths. Sue leaned over the parapet to look down on a sheer rock wall, its cracks laced with ferns.

I happened across my copy of Consider This, Senora in our library sale corner. I don't know what it was that drew me to the book - perhaps the soft, watercolor landscape on the cover or the intriguing title. The name of the book definitely had a familiar ring, but the author was not familiar to me. I flipped open to a random passage and liked it enough that I didn't bother reading further before adding it to my bag. Besides, it's hard to lose at the cost of a quarter.

After bringing the book home, it just kept shouting at me. Since the worst of the summer heat arrived in June, I've been having a "siesta" reading time in the afternoon, most days, with my beloved, now-deceased feline (our other kitty has kindly stepped in to take Sunshine's place). I kept bypassing Consider This, Senora where it sat on top of a stack near my bed, but the book continued tugging at me relentlessly until one day when I couldn't figure out what to read and picked up at least a dozen books, all of which were instantly rejected. Finally, I gave in. And, the book was just right for the moment.

Consider This, Senora is a quiet, reflective book, with carefully drawn characters and lovely prose. The story begins with two Americans purchasing land together near a remote Mexican village called Amapolas. Susannah Ames has chosen the distant locale in the hope of escaping her former life after a failed marriage. Bud Loomis is fleeing for his own reasons: he is wanted for tax evasion in Arizona. Both are interested in the same piece of land and agree to go into business together, building homes and selling them. When Susannah travels to Santa Prisca, she meets Frances Bowles. Frances, her mother Ursula, and a German musician eventually move into homes on Sue and Bud's land. But, as each of these new residents begin their life in Mexico, they find that they cannot stop the forces of change, nor can they hide from their pasts, forever.

If you're looking for a book with a relaxed pace, Consider This, Senora fits the bill. It was copyrighted in 1993 and I was curious about the author, who also wrote the book Stones For Ibarra - an American Book Award winner and another familiar title I haven't read. Author Harriet Doerr was the grand-daughter of a railroad tycoon who published her first novel at the age of 74. She passed away in 2002, so there's not a lot of information available, but that alone fascinated me. The idea that anyone managed to publish a first book so late in life inspires hope, doesn't it?

I found a quote that I absolutely loved, by the author:

"I found I'm quite happy working on a sentence for an hour or more, searching for the right phrase, the right word. I compare it to the work of a stonecutter -- chipping away at the raw material until it's just right, or as right as you can get it."

Her prose does, indeed, read as if each word was carefully chosen. Consider This, Senora is a lovely, laid-back story that fit my need for a pleasant but well-written read. It's a little bit quirky and heavy on the senses -- lots of description of the colors, the heat, drought and flood, and a unique little band of characters. I enjoyed it immensely. Save this read for a day when you're not in the mood for fast-paced action.



  1. That books sounds like it would exactly fit my mood. Right now I'm reading Trollope, which is somewhat similar sounding.

  2. I haven't read any Trollope, so I can't compare. Would you like me to send you my copy?

  3. That definitely sounds like one I might have to pick up after I hack my way through my huge TBR list. Great review.

  4. If the examples you give are an indication, her descriptive work would be a joy to read.

    I'm glad you found the right fit for the moment.


  5. I am WEEKS behind reading your blog, Nancy! (Yes, I'm finally back from the best trip ever - with tons of pics to post on my blog).

    I've spent a good chunk of my morning catching up and my first comment is to say how very, very sorry I am about Sunshine. I know how difficult it is to lose a pet and my eyes welled up when I saw your post. A warm hug going out to you, dear friend.

    And to bring a smile to your face, my blog is worthless. I went to the link you provided and the site says it's worth $0.0 Whatever! ;)

    Loved the story about the snake and squirrel in your house. My goodness, I would not be as calm as you. I've had a snake and a swarm of bees in my house (years and years ago) and it was not fun!

    About the Pacific Northwest and the rain. We were there for 2 weeks and it rained on and off for the second half of our vacation. My folks said it was more like November weather than late July. At least when it rains there, it isn't hot & sticky. And it's a gentle rain. ;) We're ready to move! Seriously.

    I did the book quiz and I'm Ender's Game. Thanks for the link. Those are always fun.

    Loved the pics of your woodpeckers. They're not like our downey woodpeckers, but I love the tufted head. Just like Woody's!

    Simone is a perfect name for your new poppet.

    Oh, and the ravioli man! Yummy! We had chicken/cheese ravioli on the boat and it was fabulous. They got it at Costco or Trader Joe's so we're out of luck, but I'll be on the lookout for something similar. I love pasta.

    Lastly, the tilde over an n is done in the HTML part of your blog entry. Just type an ampersand followed by the pound sign followed by 241 (no spaces) and it should give you the letter and the tilde. No need to type an n.

    Again, hugs to you. I hope it gets easier in the days to come.

    Love, Les

  6. Wow, she wrote her first novel at 74? That means there is still hope for me! Nice review. I have a copy of 'Stones for Iberra', that I'm going to have to move up my TBR list.

  7. Les,

    I've been enjoying your photos; I just haven't left any comments. Looks like you're having fun with the new camera and I'm kind of envious of your trip. Michigan didn't feel very vacation-y, for some reason.

    Thank you. I miss Sunshine like crazy. I'm sloooowly adjusting to having a one-cat household, but it will take time. Spooky got her name because she spooks easily and she's not so trusting and lovable as Sunshine was, so I'm having a little difficulty getting accustomed not having a little buddy follow me everywhere. Sunshine was completely trusting; I loved that.

    I don't see how your blog could possibly be worthless!!! That is so weird!

    Ender's Game is a good one!!

    We have at least three different types of woodpecker, down here. The redheaded woodpeckers are my favorites - they're so bright, they almost don't look real. Those tufted heads are really funny on the pileated woodpeckers, aren't they? They look like little clowns, to me.

    I'll stick your HTML instructions on the tilde in my file; I'm not going to bother with it, now that I'm done with the review.

    So glad you're back safe and sound!

  8. Nik,

    Thank you. I really enjoyed it. The book might be a little difficult to find because it's an older title, but I can't say for sure, since I just happened across my copy at the library sale.


    The quotes I choose usually are chosen because they jump out at me for some specific reason, but I think both are pretty representative of her writing, which is heavy on the senses and carefully worded.

    Thanks. It was definitely the right book for the time. I couldn't have read anything overly deep, this week.


    There's always hope. :) I hope you do read Stones for Ibarra, soon. I'd like to hear your thoughts.

  9. I forgot to let you know that I received the bookmarks! They're great, thanks again! (I'm using one right now as I read Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood).

  10. Nyssaneala,

    Thanks for dropping by to let me know you received them! I was just thinking about that, today. :)

  11. It's been years since I read Stones For Ibarra, but I remember loving it. This sounds really good, too. I'm putting it on my TBR list. Thanks.

  12. Robyn,

    And I'm doing the opposite - I'll put stones from Ibarra on my wish list. I'm glad you enjoyed it..

  13. Anonymous9:01 AM

    Ooh I didn't know she was 74 when she published her first novel. That's fantastic. It's been such a long time since I've read this book but I do remember liking it. I really need to read Stones for Ibarra now.

  14. This sounds like a really nice summer book! I haven't heard of it before, but I will definitely be adding it to my list!!

  15. Iliana,

    I keep forgetting to look up Stones for Ibarra - thanks for the reminder! Yes, 74 years old. Pretty inspiring, don't you think?


    I really enjoyed it. If you're a member of a book-swapping site, that's probably your best bet for locating a copy, since it's an older book.

  16. Besides your great review, Nancy, the other reason I would want to run out and pick up this book is to celebrate the fact this author wrote this, her first book, at 74 years of age. She is my hero and I haven't even read the book yet! :)

  17. Forgot to mention, Nancy, I do like the novel way you showcased the book! It looks great against that pot of lovely flowers.

  18. Lotus,

    I felt exactly the same; we should definitely celebrate her tenacity by reading her books. I wish she'd written a few more before passing away!

    And, thank you; I got the idea to photograph the book outdoors from you. :) That pot of moss roses is right by my driveway. My husband ran into it with the Honda, later that day. The flowers survived, but they don't look too healthy, now!!!

  19. Anonymous2:17 PM

    Your review beautifully conveys the pace of the book. Nice work! This isn't my usual style of read, but it sounds delicious.

  20. Thank you, Heather. :)

  21. I loved Consider This, Senora, and Stones for Ibarra, too--both lovely novels!

  22. Gentle Reader,

    I'm glad to know you enjoyed both. I couldn't decide whether or not to go ahead and order Stones for Ibarra, today (from Paperback Swap). I think I'll wait because I like to space out reads by the same author, but I'll definitely want to read it, eventually.

  23. Anonymous6:29 PM

    possibly my favourite book of all time-it's like music,seeping into me,in tune with my ?self?


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