Kissing the Virgin's Mouth: A Novel
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Selected as the first winner of Barbara Kingsolver's Bellwether Prize, Kissing the Virgin's Mouth is a beautifully written, lyrical first novel that offers a rare window into another culture. Its irresistible heroine takes the reader into her Mexican world and the experience is unforgettable.
Barbara Kingsolver founded the Bellwether Prize in support of a literature of social change. In her words, Donna Gershten's novel has "the kind of political boldness and complexity we're hoping to promote with this prize. It sets a standard for what we're defining as a literature of social responsibility."
Kissing the Virgin's Mouth is the fictional memoir of Guadalupe Magdalena Molina Vásquez -- wife, scoundrel, courtesan, and mother. In a world where gender and class roles are unbending, and religion predominant, Magda creates a philosophy of life that she can thrive in, a religion of cynical optimism, pragmatism, and determined gratitude. The invincible yet fallible Magda climbs from the poor barrio of a coastal Mexican town to American affluence, from wide-eyed childhood to worldly courtesan life, from full-blooded youth to oncoming blindness.
In the Golden Zone of Teatlán, Sinaloa, Mexico, where tourists and wealthy Mexicans thrive and where poor Mexicans come only to work or to visit the shrine of the miracle baby Jesus, Guadalupe Magdalena Molina Vásquez performs her daily ritual. In the chair of her beloved Tía Chucha, mortared to the roof of her Golden Zone home, Magda shaves her long legs, tells her life stories, and thrusts her fierce prayers of gratitude toward the Sea of Cortés.
"More cabrón than hunger is the person who has suffered it," Magda says, and in her unsentimental and savvy fashion, she recounts her life strategies -- seasoned with an earthy, hard-earned wisdom -- so that she might pass them along to her half-American daughter, Martina, and to her young Mexican cousin, Isabel.
Kissing the Virgin's Mouth is a novel about love, the power of sex, and the struggles of women. It is about the secrets of survival. It is about what a woman can do.
I found the story slow during the first half of the book and it was difficult to relate to the poverty that they lived in. Once the main character was grown up, the story went a lot faster. The relationship between her and her daughter that was mainly raised in the United States would have been much more interesting if more time had been spent exploring it.