When Irma Voth decided to marry someone who wasn’t a Mennonite, her father’s strange faith in a ruthless God required him to shut her out of his life. Having spent her early years in Canada, Irma has lived in Mexico since she was a teen and her life as a very young wife is harsh and unpredictable. She knows her husband, Jorje, is probably doing something illegal, but he keeps going away and she really wants him to stay, so she doesn’t push it. During one of Jorje’s long absences, 19-year-old Irma’s life suddenly takes a dramatic turn when a crew arrives to film a movie on the Mennonite compound and she’s hired as a translator for the director. The movie crew’s arrival creates a crack in the fragile balance of Irma’s life and sets her on a path she’d never have expected.
I was of two minds reading this book. The writing is so delicate and purposeful, sometimes poetically beautiful. Irma is absolutely coming of age, and as we read her thoughts, sometimes circular, sometimes astonishingly beautiful, you can tell she is working through some serious issues. But then other times, she frustrated me with her inability to be purposely a part of her own life. I wanted her to make decisions and act as if she KNEW something, but her languidness really separated me from appreciating her as a character. I admit, the ending of the book helped to alleviate that somewhat; I think I understand her more now than I did in the middle, but I still sometimes felt that I was having an out-of-body experience as I read. Like it was real life, but not — a movie about Mennonites in the Mexican desert? It stretched me to believe it sometimes.
It certainly was a different kind of story, a heartbreaking story that takes you to the brink of redemption and just to the other side. Those who are sensitive to coarse language should be forewarned. I will say that I appreciated how it ended and found myself feeling very sympathetic for Irma by the time I closed the book.
Rated: High for 20+ uses of strong language, 25+ uses of moderate language, one sexual scene and some graphic conversations.