I think we should take it through Guatemala.
A random text from a stranger inspires agoraphobic Colin to leave New York. His first stop is Brownsville, Texas, where he meets the sender, half-Mayan Luci Bolon, her ancient but feisty great-uncle Ernesto, and Miss Mango, a bright-orange Kubota tractor. Ernesto’s dream is that Miss Mango be driven to Belize and given to the family he left behind nearly seventy years ago. Colin agrees to join Luci on the long journey through Central America.
In 1949, seventeen-year-old Belizean Ernesto falls painfully in love with Michaela, an American redhead nearly twice his age. Their brief but intense affair changes everything Ernesto has ever known. When she leaves, Ernesto is devastated. Determined to find her, he “borrows” a donkey from his uncle and starts off for Texas. He meets a flamboyant fellow traveler, and the three of them—two young men and the donkey they name Bee—make their way to America.
The past and present unfold through two journeys that traverse beautiful landscapes. Painful histories are soothed by new friendships and payments of old debts.
I have reviewed this book at the request of the author. My thanks to Karen for providing me with a digital copy of the book for this purpose. I have reviewed the book honestly and impartially.
I owe Karen an apology. I should have reviewed this book back in the autumn when I finished reading it. Unfortunately, it fell into the black hole of the period where my blogging mojo just completely disappeared and I am only now just catching up. I am hoping it is better late than never.
A tale of two journeys, seventy years apart. In 1949, Ernesto makes the long and arduous journey from the jungles of Belize to a new life in the US. Seven decades later, his great-niece makes the journey in reverse. Each is accompanied by a human and a non-human companion, taking in the scenery along the way and contemplating their lives. The book has everything you could possibly want in a novel – great characters, travel, humour and examination of the human condition. A pretty great achievement.
All of the characters in the book are compelling, and the dynamics between them work brilliantly to enlighten and entertain. Awkward Colin who intercepts a text meant for someone else embarks on an unlikely journey that changes his humdrum life. Luci, in search of her family heritage finds herself accompanied by a man she has never met. Both of them riding the lumbering, flamboyant and temperamental Miss Mango. Who would be crazy enough to try and navigate the route from the USA to Belize on an orange tractor? In the other direction, we see young Ernesto set off in pursuit of love, on foot, accompanied by a kind-of-stolen donkey and a brand new friend. In both tales, the non-human characters have as much personality and relevance to the story as the humans, and it is delightful to read.
The real stars of this story though are the journeys and the scenery along the route. The author does a fabulous job of describing what each group encounters along the way, bringing the landscape and the people of the countries to life and making the reader feel like they have actually been there. Belize is obviously a place for which the author feels great affection, and this seeps from between the pages until you will be wishing you could dash off there and experience it for yourself.
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. It was tender and beautiful and insightful and humorous. A love letter to Belize and the importance of our roots, no matter how far we travel from our homeland. Well worth a read.
Legend of the Lost Ass is out now as a paperback or ebook and you can buy a copy here.
Karen wrote a guest post for the blog last summer about Belize, the setting for this book, and you can read it here.
About the Author
Karen Winters Schwartz wrote her first truly good story at age seven. Her second-grade teacher publicly and falsely accused her of plagiarism. She did not write again for forty years.
Her widely praised novels include WHERE ARE THE COCOA PUFFS?; REIS’S PIECES; and THE CHOCOLATE DEBACLE (Goodman Beck Publishing). Her new novel, LEGEND OF THE LOST ASS, was released by Red Adept Publishing on July 21, 2020.
Educated at The Ohio State University, Karen and her husband moved to the Central New York Finger Lakes region where they raised two daughters and shared a career in optometry. She now splits her time between Arizona, a small village in Belize, and traveling the earth in search of the many creatures with whom she has the honor of sharing this world. This is her second year as a Rising Star judge.
Connect with Karen:
Facebook: Author Karen Winters Schwartz