I thought I wasn't going to like this book. I'd rather read about a protagonist I admire, or at least one I might like as a person. There's not a lot to like about Lupita at the beginning of the story, and the first few chapters show all the signs of disintegrating into a preachy literary slice-of-life tale.
But Laura Esquivel surprised me. The seemingly random series of events surrounding the death of a local political figure start to shape up into a compelling mystery. As Lupita stumbles through her days, the reader gets a sense of a vivid social climate surrounding her, and the whole story is saturated with the cultural details of everyday life. It becomes clear she's in a lot of danger, and she barely escapes with her life on more than one occasion.
It's a murder mystery made of feeling as well as deduction. I've read a lot of detective fiction where the main character is coldly rational. Lupita is anything but rational, but she has a powerful intuition that serves her just as well. It was a breath of fresh air to realize that the author was deftly illustrating how it could be possible to solve a crime without high education or legal brilliance in an environment where the police are just as corrupt as the criminals. The character development is handled with grace and realism, and I really had to take back my initial judgements about Lupita's character.
The one part of the book that was a letdown was the ending. It ended very abruptly, with too many questions left unanswered. When Lupita found a safe and healing community, only to discover that one of the "good guys" was quite possibly a turncoat who would betray them all, I was looking forward to seeing how the author handled it. There could have been all kinds of dramatic potential in her newfound need to tell the truth, and her relative newness to the community vs the loyalty its members surely had to the turncoat. It was very disappointing when the book ended without addressing the situation at all. Nor was Lupita's relationship with her best friend brought to a satisfying conclusion.
Regardless, I really enjoyed the book and I'd recommend it to people who like mysteries with a dark or unusual bent.
- Pierced by the Sun by Laura Esquivel