Once more into the breach! Kathy (aka @thebrainlair) and I share our ending thoughts about this lovely book. Oh.... is that a spoiler? Yes, I did really love this one, though there were a few things that I point out along the way that didn't sync perfectly for me. As always, my thoughts with Kathy's responses are here. Her thoughts with my responses are on The Brain Lair.
Did you read it? Join in the conversation!
Catch up with our first few posts -
We chat about the Hero's Journey and our thoughts about the cover.
We discuss part one - "The Departure"
We discuss part two - "The Initiation"
This last section had some lovely parts, but wasn’t nearly as appealing to me as the other two parts of the book. I’m trying to figure out what caused my lack of enthusiasm for Part 3.
I wonder if it’s because it moved so quickly? They hardly had any confrontations and after going nearly day to day with them, we were a few days and then almost a year later in the story. We don’t know how they coped with the changes that happened after they tried to piece the family back together. Did they get to see their abuela for Christmas? We were told how the mom changed but what about the sisters? Exactly! That abruptness just didn’t sit well with me.
You mentioned in your last set of thoughts that you had already read the “In this part” summary that the author has at the beginning of The Return (page 259). Once I read it, I understood your concern. It told me exactly what was going to happen! For some reason, the summary at the start of Part 2 didn’t bother me as much.
Maybe it’s because, in spite of the fact that it told me what monsters they would encounter and that they WOULD escape, I still felt like there were secrets to uncover. I didn’t know how it would all play out - and I enjoyed the ride. In THIS section, the summary gave me some spoilers (mostly about her father) that really ruined my response to the events.
In spite of that, there were things I definitely enjoyed in this final section.
The father part of the summary was what stifled part of my enthusiasm. I was looking forward to reading about their encounter but wish I hadn’t known his fate. My knowledge combined with the rather short encounter left me wanting in this section.
Odilia is given packets of seeds - which feels to me like the “item” she brings back to her real world. Her gift of healing helps her pull her family back together and helps her in her interactions in her last meeting with La Llorona. While I really loved that scene, I was disappointed that there wasn’t more about Odilia and her healing skills. I love reading about herblore (one of the many reasons I adored Ursu’s The Real Boy) and I was hoping for more in this area.
Downside - I thought the return was abrupt, and I wanted the girls to be more in charge of their own destiny in this part. The divine intervention made it feel like I had a piece chopped out of the story, instead of seeing them continue to develop their own personal power.
Agreed! I felt as if suddenly, they were thrust into the background and weren’t a central part of the story anymore. They were in it, it was about them, but we didn’t know how they fared. They were gone for twelve days and she mentioned that the mom had been “gone” for longer. How did they all cope? These were not the same hermanitas from the beginning of the book. How could they be? How were their lives different? Aside from the new beau. Who we didn’t really need.
I was left thinking Odilia’s newfound believe in herself and her place in the world was the “gift”. Though I think McCall would have had to explore that more for me to accept it solidly. We see her use the seeds once. Questions abound. Yes - and yet it didn’t feel like we were being set up for a sequel... so I’m left feeling like there are holes in the story.
I continued to love the butterfly/ mariposa imagery. I’m not sure if I mentioned this in earlier discussions, but I thought McCall did a wonderful job weaving the concept of transformation through the book. This is definitely something that would be fun to revisit during close readings of sections of the text with a small group. She really carried it through with the mom in this section.
The dream: I enjoyed the dream sequence with Tonantzin. “Dreams are revelations” (page 272) felt reminiscent of Dumbledore telling Harry that just because something happens in your head doesn’t mean it’s not real. I liked how the Virgen tells the girls that she likes their curiosity, since it helps makes them brave. That’s a solid message for the students who will read this story. Looking back on this sequence, I also like what Tonantzin has to say about their father. I don’t think I appreciated her statements as much the first time through. “Your father is like the sun, splendid to behold, but he must descend and let darkness rule for a time.” (pg 273) This is a piece I would revisit if I were using it with a reading group, I think. It’s also something that true of all of us. If we accept it when it happens, but remember that we are the sun and will rise again, it would help students through many troubling times. Like Middle School.
The roses: I don’t want to give too many spoilers, here, but I loved the ambiguous nature of Odilia’s final task of giving the roses to “the mother”... I was also happy that Odilia ended up with at least one important task that no one could help her figure out. She couldn’t use the earring... she just had to put the pieces together and figure it out for herself. Ah, yes. I also liked the metaphor used to help her come to that realization.
This was a lovely, well crafted, work of art. I think I’d enjoy the overall story more if I had read it straight through (I feel like the gaps of time between reading the sections made me a bit confused on some parts - it wasn’t the fault of the book itself). I would definitely consider using this with students who have read worked on the Hero’s Journey, especially those who are intrigued by mythology. I can’t wait for it to be in paperback so I can snag a small group set and try it out with select students this year.
The last few books we’ve read have caused me to wonder about dividing books into sections. On the one hand it keeps me on track (except when it doesn’t!) but on the other hand, sometimes the contrived break serve to create a dissonance in the reading. It also goes against developing reading stamina. I know many students balk against it, especially the avid readers, because they lose the flow when the stop to take notes, annotate, find vocabulary or whatever close reading tasks the teacher has set. I’m always arguing that they need to read the whole book first then go back and do the tasks. This also encourages the reread, something most students detest. How do these things affect us as adult readers? As reading teachers? Part of our goal is to bring students to an understanding of literature and its parallels to our lives. I think that comes from sitting and reading and thinking about a book, taking any notes that occur naturally, then going back and doing the heavy lifting. But who has that sort of time? Oh, I agree with you on this! I fight back against the “6 weeks and itty bitty tasks” by giving the kids only 3 weeks or so to get through a book... but I’ve also done some where they read the whole book in one gulp and then we went back. Do you think that kids would ACTUALLY read the book twice, though? Or would they just wait until the tasks are due and do it then?
Next up? Kathy and I will be reading a graphic novel adaptation of The Odyssey. I can't wait to see how many connections I can find with Summer of the Mariposas!
This will be a "quick read" - so grab a copy and read along with us if you'd like!