When Rodolfo Solórzano proposes to Beatriz, she jumps at the opportunity to help her family out of their current poverty and dependance on hateful relatives. She travels with her new husband to his country estate with plans to make it a refuge for herself and her mother. Only something in very wrong with this hacienda. Soon Beatriz is left alone to fight the darkness, whether that darkness is in her own mind, or exuding from the walls and rafters of her new home.
As you might have guessed from the description, this is a retelling of Rebecca, set just after the war for Mexican independence. Only in this tale, Rodolfo’s second wife isn’t haunted by the psychological phantom of her predecessor. Oh, no. In this book, evil takes physical form. Curses and ghosts and rot come alive, and they are capable of physical harm. As are the other inhabitants of the hacienda, because not everyone is happy to find that their employer has brought home a new wife to command them.
Add into the mix a conflicted priest who tries to balance his Catholic teachings with his inborn witchcraft, an entire history of family skeletons, and a society stratified by racial castes, and you have one hell of a book! To make it even better, the language is incredibly poetic, and I have to give credit to any author who can casually toss in some of my favorite (but rarely used) words with ease: crepuscular, susurration, hubristic…
Full disclosure: It took me a few chapters to find the rhythm of the writing and thereby connect into the story. I’m not sure why I’m like this, but if I can’t hear the words and rhythm as I read, I struggle to comprehend what I’m reading. Cañas’ writing style was different than I’m used to, but once I fell into the rhythm, I adored it. I was also delighted to see how often native and Spanish phrases/words were used, how they were integrated seamlessly into the prose. (It drives me mad, for example, that the title of this book is The Hacienda, rather than La Hacienda, but maybe that’s just because I grew up in south TX…) Altogether, the complexities of the poetic language and word choice made for such a rich read even apart from the story itself, and the language and story complemented each other so well.
I adored this book. It exceeded my expectations, and my only quibble was an incredibly tiny thing. The word “slick” was used so often, especially in the phrase “slicked [my/his/her] palms” that by the end, I never wanted to hear the word again. Heh. But that’s such a little thing and absolutely did not detract from the overall experience. I highly, highly recommend that y’all check this one out, and if you’re a reader who participates in the RIP reading event, this would be an absolutely perfect choice for it!