Our unofficial book club chose Fernanda Melchor’s novel Hurricane Season to read during the Holy Week/Easter break despite its less-than-holy theme.
Set in Mexico, Hurricane Season begins with the death of a mysterious figure in a small village known locally as the Witch. As the story unfolds, the life and identity of the Witch as well as the other characters related to her death are revealed, as each chapter is told from their perspective.
The first two chapters focus on the life of the current Witch as well as her mother, the former Witch, whom the village women visit for their physical, mental, and emotional ails. The second wife of a wealthy haciendero, the original Witch was feared and maligned in the village despite her usefulness, with the usual stories of devil worship and fornication. The sudden “discovery” of the local women of the Witch’s child solidified the rumors of her sexual relations with the devil, especially as the child grows up to be as cunning as (if not more so than) the old Witch.
The identity of the killer is revealed in the early parts of the novel, as it is less of a “whodunnit” than a “why-do-it,” and chapters 2 to 6 focus on the people indirectly involved in the murder but directly involved with the murderer. The five chapters that make up the bulk of the novel are told from the perspectives of Yesina, the cousin of the murderer; Munra, the stepfather of the murderer and an accomplice; Norma, the murderer’s underaged girlfriend; and Brando, the murderer’s friend, who was also directly involved in the killing. Each chapter describes the lives of the aforementioned characters, shedding light on their personality, circumstances, and hardships, leading up to the day of the Witch’s murder.
Against this background, Hurricane Season tells a story about poverty, government corruption, police brutality, gender inequality, sexuality and sexual stereotypes, machismo, superstitions, religion, drug use, abuse, and violence, with vivid, uncomfortable, and painful descriptions, sometimes bordering on gratuitous.
Despite the raw and harsh narratives and issues addressed, Hurricane Season is compelling and mesmerizing. Its semi-stream-of-consciousness style plunges readers into the confused, resentful, or drug-addled minds of its complex characters, all victims of their circumstance.
Inspired by Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s novella Chronicles of a Death Foretold, Hurricane Season was shortlisted for the 2020 Booker International prize but lost to Marieke Lukas Rijneveld’s The Discomfort of Evening.
This novel’s narrative style, structure, and plot make it quite difficult (physically and mentally) to read; however, I enjoyed it as much as one can “enjoy” such a book.
Hurricane Season (2017) – Fernanda Melchor
Fitzcarraldo Editions; 226 pages (tpb)
Personal rating: 3.5/5