Ghosts of El Grullo

Published By: University of New Mexico Press

Book Category: Fiction,

Reviewed by Beth Cummings

Patricia Santana is the daughter of Mexican immigrants and grew up in south San Diego, California. She has published several award-winning short stories and the novel, Motorcycle Ride on the Sea of Tranquility that was selected as a Best Books for Young Adults 2003 by the American Library Association.

Santana’s new book, Ghosts of El Grullo doesn’t disappoint. It continues the story of Yolanda Sahagun, a young woman whose life is similar in many ways to Santana’s. She is a member of a Mexican-American family with eight siblings who live, work, love, laugh and cry in the San Diego suburb of Palm City.

El Grullo is the name of the village in Jalisco, Mexico, where Yolanda’s mother grew up and where her aunts still live in the family compound. Every summer, Yolanda’s family piles into their station wagon and goes to Mexico to visit family members there. The compound is old and the aunts tell stories of ghosts haunting the rooms and verandas. Yolanda was a sensitive and imaginative child and was very curious about the ghosts and about the family history.

In this book it is 1973 and Yolanda is about to start college at the University of California-San Diego. She has scholarships and plans to live in the dorms – away from her father and his old-fashioned and erratic rules and moods. College life is a whole new culture. She is constantly searching for symbolism and ways to mesh her Mexican-American heritage with her new freedom and with people she meets from very different walks of life.

Family crisis, family love, and everyday events are handled with such warmth and caring that I felt like I knew the Sahagun family (or at least that I wanted to know them better). Patricia Santana has created well-developed personalities – even the neighbors and Mexican aunts are more than just names on the page. I don’t know how much of the story is based on Santana’s own life, but she has certainly created a fictional family full of life and love.

I truly enjoyed reading the book and hope to find and read her earlier work.

Armchair Interviews says: Well-told story of family life.

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