Delacorte Press/Random House: NY, 2009.
I picked this up for the global travel slant. Mostly it is discussion of travel and living in or visiting a country other than the US. For Zeeta, living in another culture is the norm. She hasn't lived in the US. She is fluent in Spanish and can speak the local language in Otavalo, so she translates for a tourist who is also in search of his birth parents. Zeeta's mother is the reason for her cultural life; her mother likes to become a part of the community, immerse herself in the local atmosphere, then after a year or so find a new spot in the world to experience. Otavalo is the new spot, and Wendell's search for relatives focuses Zeeta's thoughts and passion on something other than her frustration with being ripped away from the last community and dissatisfaction with this pattern of events.
Zeeta has been asking Layla (her mom) to settle in one place (namely Maryland where her grandparents live). After a death-defying experience, Layla agrees it's time to settle. So while Zeeta is busy, Layla finds a stable guy and really settles. Needless to say it is not what Zeeta was hoping for. The guy's fine, but not a great experience for Layla. Zeeta wants her old mom back.
The search for the birth parents leads to some bizarre happenings. Some of it is interesting and even kind of cool, but some of it is just weird.
I like the book overall. The aspect I like the best is Zeeta's interaction with locals, both in the marketplace and the nearby town where their search leads them. She quickly develops friendships, and it seems real. Then, there are a number of details that hold my attention as well: Mamita Luz and Taita Silvio's care of their community, the bathing in the waters, the crystal cave, the wise woman of the marketplace. A large part of the story is recognition that what you wish for may not be what is best or what you really want. I like some philosophical moments in stories, so this is good, once Zeeta becomes less focused on whining. I also like her notebooks that she fills with answers to her blunt searching questions for everyone with whom she interacts.
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