Consider This, Senora by Harriet Doerr
Publ. by Harcourt & Brace
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.