Sunday, November 7, 2010

Land of Mountains

Jinx Schwartz
Treble Heart Books
322 pages
$13.95 U.S. and Canada

“Gooey tarmac oozed around my brand new patent leather shoes, and damp heat wilted the Shirley Temple curls my mother forced my hair into earlier in the day. I could practically feel the ringlets springing back to their natural orange frizz. I began to glow. Southern girls don’t sweat, they glow. Rivers of glow ran through my scalp, down my neck.”

How can a ten-year-old girl cause so much trouble?

When your father works in the construction business of building dams, you find that this gives you the opportunity to explore the world. Texas born and raised, Lizbuthann finds that relocating to Haiti in the early 1950s is quite an educational experience.

Unfortunately, Haiti is in the tropics and for a redhead, the sweat, the humidity as it frizzes the hair, and the touchy and highly reactive skin that tends to show every blemish don’t always agree with the move.
Not to mention, the unladylike behavior that upsets the perfectionist in your mother.

In Haiti, during the early 1950s, this is a third-world country. The governmental leadership wants to develop the country and sees the future through the restriction of the water system by building a dam. This requires foreign expertise, so Lizbuthann’s father is part of this enclosed community temporarily living in the country at a base camp. Life within the camp is much different from her life in Texas and the community has many privileges and riches that are not even imagined in the general population of Haiti.

This time period is prior to living under a dictatorship. The current leader wants a democracy, just not elections. The country has its own language and still has the religious influences of voodoo mixed with Catholicism. For a Southern Baptist family from Texas, this is quite an adjustment.

Adopting a baby parrot is intended to keep Lizbuthann distracted and hopefully out of a little trouble, but Pee Wee manages to cause plenty of awkward and hilarious situations all by him.

Jinx Schwarz, the author, actually based this series on her life in Haiti during this time period. The sense of time and place superbly transports the reader back into the early 1950s and living in Haiti. Having read many of Jinx’s other mysteries, this book does not let me done. Everything Jinx writes is outstanding.

LAND OF MOUNTAINS is fun to read. The character Lizbuthann is delightfully troublesome and just the type of person who questions life and makes every normal day laughable. The story is extremely well-organized, and has a personal voice that makes a true connection with each of the characters.

For being categorized as a young adult mystery, there is more everyday adventure than there is a mystery. Even though the intended audience is young adult, everyone can have quite a few laughs by reading LAND OF MOUNTAINS. Personally, I think that the targeted audience should be toward middle-aged women who have an understanding of the changes in societal standards since the 1950s. This book is an humorous adventure into a different setting and time period.

LAND OF MOUNTAINS is fun to read. It’s memorable and vividly explains life in a different time and place in a fun and humorous manner.

The biggest problem I see with LAND OF MOUNTAINS is where to buy it. Because it is printed through a small press publication, our local Barnes & Noble will not carry it, nor order it. If you don’t have an Amazon account, either call or contact MYSTERY BOOKSTORE on South 13th by the Bohemian Café or THE BOOKWORM which is also in Omaha. Either store will be thrilled to order it for you.

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