Book1: Forgetting the Alamo

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Book1: Forgetting the Alamo

Postby Baker » 01 Apr 2011, 06:12

It's the 1st of April where I am, so I thought I'd open up the discussion thread. (I'll be joining in soon.)

So, impressions. Questions. Points to discuss? Let rip, readers.
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Re: Book1: Forgetting the Alamo

Postby wildlx » 01 Apr 2011, 06:24

:oops: I am still half way through the book ... I haven't liked it much so far.
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Re: Book1: Forgetting the Alamo

Postby Nurse Jo » 01 Apr 2011, 06:58

Now that is interesting. I would have put money on you liking this book. Good thing I'm not a betting women lol .

I loved it. I loved it for the sense of place primarily. The vast nothingness of countryside - I am not sure I'd have had the same reaction if I hadn't seen a tiny bit of Texas for myself. I have read several books on Texan history (along with a few books about the expansion of european America into the western part of the continent) so this was always going to be a book that interested me.

I liked it for its no holds barred nature, it showed the cruelty of the era with no romanticising. Again, having been to the Alamo and seen the displays there, I found this a very different history from the official one. OK, I am not an historian and therefore unable to judge the veracity of the sources either for the challenge book or for the official displays. Most sources carry bias, I realise that. Even so, this makes you think and question official presentations of facts.

The story itself, well, I was so thankful it wasn't one of Sue's timetravelling westerns that this may have made me a touch more enthusiastic than I would normally have been. I empathised with the central character although I didn't like her very much. I found the story a little depressing , although poor Sue found it so ghastly and doomladen she couldn't finish it. I don't mind a bit of depression as long as it's in someone else so I relished the descriptions of despair and hopelessness. Maybe I found these descriptions compelling because I have been depressed (although not to that extent). Sue is the worlds' most cheerful and positive person who always looks on the bright side (of life ;) ) so found the whole wallowing in misery thing very unsettling. I found all those miserable bits excellent insighst into the human soul. Life is a bitch and then you die - I think this book just makes a story of that motto. It provides a lot of history along the way which meant I could cope with that journey. It also made me thankful that I am who am, that I was born in 1970, that I live in the UK and that I am generally a glass half full type of gal. IMO, despite absolutely horrific circumstances, life is what we make it and misery is quite often a self fulfilling prophecy.


Just some preliminary thoughts on the novel as a whole.
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Re: Book1: Forgetting the Alamo

Postby Proofrdr » 01 Apr 2011, 13:33

I agree, Nurse Jo, the descriptions of the locale were beautifully wrought. I also agree that the MC is not a particularly sympathetic character. While her feelings are understandable, how she decides to act upon them is almost always reprehensible. The history also was interesting. Before this, I'd only read a bit about Texas history. but Forgetting the Alamo certainly casts that period in gritty, sordid, and probably much more realistic terms.

Generally, the writing was good, and I would say the book is worth reading, but it was not an enjoyable read for me and there were elements that I found problematic.

1. The Spanish. I don't mind foreign words and phrases in an English book. They are an element of characterization and in this book particularly, integral to the main character. However, I do believe it is paramount that the author makes sure the words and phrases are couched in a context that makes them understandable to a non-speaker. If some hint of the meaning or a restatement in English is not given, why insert the words? I hate--HATE--having to stop reading and look up foreign words. I had to do it far too many times for this book.

2. The Tension. The dramatic tension in this book is relentless. There are no gaps in it, no moments of relief between scenes of misery and destruction. I kept having to step away for a bit. Even in the most serious of dramas there ought to be peaks and valleys of tension in the movement from beginning to end; this book focuses only on the peaks. And then it ends.

3. Ah...The End. The ending was awful. Out of which back pocket did Peréz pull that deus ex machina of an ending? The main character is a remorseless murderer, has escaped the night before her scheduled hanging, is being hunted down by both the law and the bad guys. So what does she do? Of course, she enters a convent and lives the rest of her life in quiet contemplation with nuns. Terrible, abrupt ending...particularly after a book's worth of such relentless tension.
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Re: Book1: Forgetting the Alamo

Postby ElaineB » 02 Apr 2011, 02:09

Nurse Jo wrote:poor Sue found it so ghastly and doomladen she couldn't finish it.

I'm with Sue, though I'll try to finish it. But please, is there any bright moment in it? Just when I thought things were picking up, she lost her gun. I'm not the least bit hopeful things will improve. (I'm skipping Proof's comment on the end for now.)
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Re: Book1: Forgetting the Alamo

Postby ElaineB » 04 Apr 2011, 01:37

OK, I finished.

Sigh.

What drove me crazy was that in all this desolate land, she kept running into the same people. Over and over. That just got to be laughable. The end. Yeah, that was nuts. After god knows how long of being followed and chased, suddenly no one's looking for her and she doesn't run into people she couldn't help but run into before? The unrelenting horror, while I don't doubt its reality, was too much. As Proof said, no relief from the tension. The Spanish didn't bother me and I didn't bother to look it up. I gathered from the context what was said. Maybe I missed something important, though, and if I did, then yeah, it was a bad idea.

I liked Micaela. After what she went through (and I wasn't sure what the point was of her "denial" of her own rape for so long), I had no problem with her wanting revenge. I'd probably have done the same. I was disappointed she didn't kill Rove and the Colonel when she had the chance. I'd probably have killed Walker, too. Not sure what that says about me!

As far as the Alamo goes, I did like that this was the other side of the story. And I confess I don't know much about that event and didn't know about the massacre/battle (depending on your POV) at San Jacinto. I'm sure there's a lot to it I don't understand--what's the story about? It's gotta be more than this young woman's quest for revenge gone bad, but I'm not sure I see what that is. A retelling of Don Quixote? (If I ever read that it was so long ago that I've forgotten it.) When she's with her Comanche relatives, I wondered if this wasn't some "Dreamtime" sort of parable. That section, and maybe with Miss Celestine, seemed almost paranormal. And her visits by ghosts. I wondered what turn it was going to take from this point, but it soon just reverted to the death and destruction of the rest.

Lambda Literary came up with this:
men in Forgetting the Alamo include the completely evil Rove (for Karl Rove), the opportunistic Walker (for George Walker Bush), and the cruel Colonel (for Dick Cheney).

Good lord, that hadn't occurred to me and I'm glad it didn't while reading it. It's actually a good review otherwise.

The bad men in this are all bad, no nuances to them. Is that a fair retribution for all the stories where Mexicans and people of color are depicted as all evil?

A complex story. After all that, I'm just glad nothing bad happened to the horse.
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Re: Book1: Forgetting the Alamo

Postby Proofrdr » 04 Apr 2011, 02:30

Wow! I never thought of the Rove, Walker, Colonel in current context! Not that it would have made the thrust of the novel any clearer.
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Re: Book1: Forgetting the Alamo

Postby Lt Sue » 04 Apr 2011, 05:33

The book started off quite well for me. As a frequent (!) visitor to Texas recently I'm familiar with some of the places and history mentioned. The book is also well written, notwithstanding the Spanish! Then, it all started going wrong for the MC...her dad dies, her brother and sister die, her mother gets raped, she loses her property, she loses a friend, she gets raped, her stuff gets stolen...for goodness sake what else can go wrong! I was so depressed at this point I skipped to the end because Jo said there was a happy ending - sort of. Sure! If you want to live in a nunnery and cross the border once a year to visit your girlfriend and her kids. What is ultimately depressing is you know that the lot of non-whites in Texas doesn't get better for a loooooong time. No stars from me :mad:
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Re: Book1: Forgetting the Alamo

Postby tanner » 04 Apr 2011, 08:23

I seem to be more in agreement with Jo than anyone else. I thought the author did a nice job of showing just how large Texas is. And it didn't bother me that she kept running in to the same people -- I would imagine that people traveling between different areas did stick to trails. The Texas Road (Shawnee Trail) was in use in the 1830s and even had different branches stemming from it. Was Michaela very likeable? No but she had enough events (like the rape and murders) to make her mean and vindictive. And let's face it, Texas in the frontier times was not a particularly hospitable place for women and children. The unrelenting tension kept me in suspense wondering what would happen next. As far as the ending, maybe it was a little far-fetched for breaking Michaela out of jail, but it wouldn't be the first time it happened. And it certainly was no HEA. Maybe I gave it extra points for that! lol But I thought Michaela's having to sneak across the border to see her GF and family once a year was realistic and sad.

All in all, I really enjoyed this, Wildlx. It certainly made me want to do some fact checking on Texas during that time, though. It made me happy that I didn't have ancestors here in Texas during that time. We didn't get here 'til the 1880s and my great-grandfathers pissed away their oil lands during the Depression, leaving my one of my granddads to be a sharecropper. That somewhat assuages my white Texas guilt.
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Re: Book1: Forgetting the Alamo

Postby grewgirl » 04 Apr 2011, 11:37

I'm with Sue on this one. The book started off all right, but once her world turned upside down, it became harder to read. I almost felt like at the end all would be absolved and she would live happily ever after with Clara. I was glad that she didn't but I really did think that the ending sucked. I didn't really enjoy how she kept hinting at her ending, talking about how the children she would come to love as her own were Jed's, and how her temper would get the better of her. Technically it wasn't bad, but it's not a book I would have picked up if it hadn't been suggested here. It was just too damned sad - I felt hopeless and lost while reading it. That's not something I want from a book, unless the end is sunshine and sparkly unicorn farts. Yes, I felt the emotion, but towards the end it just never stopped and almost felt contrived. I kept wondering when she was going to get a break or grow a pair.

It was interesting to see a bit of my own history, though - my mother's family is Black/Mexican/Native American with deep roots in San Antonio and Seguin. I do want to do a little more reading about Texas before the time of the book. Maybe all of the hatred in the story just hit a little close to home. We are living in a time where it's OK to hate anyone who isn't exactly like you.
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