Miguel Hernández is a teacher who has left Mexico City to complete a one year student internship in the rural hills of Puebla. He came to the school intending to focus on his teaching and his students but quickly learns that it is impossible to keep his private and professional lives separate — particularly as his experience turns into a voyage of self-discovery.
His students, the Directora of the school, the baker, and other people from the town all contribute to his growing awareness. But most important is Ruben, the owner of the candy store who progresses from merchant to friend to lover. He will be the man who has the most effect on Miguel — who, in turn, is transformed by the impact of Miguel on his own life.
Normal Miguel by Erik Orrantia is a beautiful story of a young man’s journey of self-discovery and self-acceptance. It is an extremely well written novel that transported me to the rural hills of Puebla and the impoverished rural Mexican village of Comaltican and into the lives of not only Miguel and Ruben, but also the many colourful secondary characters that make up this community.
The prose is simply gorgeous – I cannot stress this enough – and the author’s rich descriptions evoke a kaleidoscope of images of the people, community life, and the land.
“In the dark of the evening, while the water from the heavens saturated the hills and the soil and the roots of every tree, the mountainside exploded. The gigantic rock which was the hillside above the cave opening came down in one piece, shattering against the earth into boulder bigger than burros that rolled down to places where they wedges between mighty trees and larger stones left there from the mountain’s previous madness. Water spewed out as if escaping from a cage. The groaning dies down as if the mountain was finally relieved, but the water continued to gush steadily with less pressure but greater quantity.
The story is written mainly from the perspective of Miguel and his narrative voice is one that is gentle and thoughtful. There is fluidity to the writing that allows Miguel to seamlessly take the reader from present to past and back again throughout the novel without interrupting the overall rhythm of the story. The author deftly captures Miguel’s nervousness as to whether he will be a good teacher and be accepted by his students and the community, as well as his fear at their reactions should they discover that he is gay. Throughout his year at the Internado (boarding school), Miguel both teaches and learns. His relationship with Ruben, and his experiences with his students and the people of the community prove invaluable life lessons that all contribute to his growth and maturity, and ultimately to his self-acceptance.
The secondary characters in this novel simply jump off the page. The author’s treatment and presentation of them is quite unique in that he provides a brief back story for several of the recurring secondary characters that gives the reader insight into each character’s actions and motivation. While some readers may find this distracting from the main story, I felt that this only added to the overall richness of the story and its ensemble cast.
Normal Miguel was an absolutely wonderful reading experience for me and I highly recommend this novel to readers. I very much look forward to reading more of Mr. Orrantia’s work in the future.
Normal Miguel by Erik Orrantia is available in e-book format at All Romance eBooks, the Amazon Kindle Store and Rainbow eBooks through Bristlecone Pine Press, and in print at Amazon through Cheyenne Publishing.
NOTE: This review was originally published online by Rainbow Reviews.