Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Rate: 4/5

Medium: Audiobook

Overview (No Spoilers):

Moreno-Garcia weaves a mystery in Mexican Gothic that more than lives up to all the much deserved hype. I finally made the time to read this highly touted book when Moreno-Garcia had a speaking event in my home state, which if  you ever get a chance to listen to her talk you’ll leave inspired and motivated to read more of her stories. That said, I binge read the majority of Mexican Gothic in one day, being easily caught up by the creepy story that Moreno-Garcia navigates into unexpected directions.

Based in the 1950s, young socialite Noemi Taboada is sent away from the glamor of Mexico City to the remote mountain of El Triunfo by her father to check on the wellbeing of a beloved cousin, Catalina. To entice Noemi to embark on this less than appealing mission, her father acquiesces to sending Noemi to university if the mystery is resolved. This added reward becomes particularly motivating in the face of increasingly strange and unnerving events that Noemi witnesses while staying with her cousin and her husband’s family. The house, High Place, especially seems haunted with bizarre dreams becoming the norm. Will Noemi be able to solve the mystery before Catalina is lost forever or before she becomes irretrievably ensnared? 

Due to Catalina marrying quite swiftly, Noemi has not thoroughly met the Doyles, which works well within the confines of the story as the introductions of Catalina’s husband and in-laws are new for both the reader and the socialite. A quick aside, with listening to the audiobooks, every time I heard the Doyle’s full last name, I couldn’t help but giggle and whisper O’Doyle’s Rule from Billy Madison. Yes, I know the association is in no way comparable to the horror of Mexican Gothic, but the mind works in strange ways. So back to the Doyle’s, the family is quite uninviting and rigid in their rules, while also being unapologetically elitist with their European background and eugenic rhetoric. Despite living in Mexico for generations, the majority of the family speaks little to no Spanish, further isolating themselves and highlighting their general unpleasant dispositions. 

As Noemi extends her stay at High Place, she has several bizarre encounters with the patriarch, Howard that only grow stranger upon uncovering concerning family skeletons. For example, one of Howard’s daughters has been involved in a murder/suicide, while the second had a husband who met an unconventional and suspicious ending. The final twist is one I pondered at early on, but Moreno-Garcia writing is so skilled that the revelations kept me glued right up until the last page. The twists are reminiscent of Jordan Peele’s 2017 movie Get Out, though with sinister and symbiotic connections that proved exponentially more cringe-inducing. Overall, Mexican Gothic is a quick read that will keep the reader hooked as the mystery takes on an edge of horror with Noemi’s rescue mission becoming one to save herself as well. 

Additional Insights (Spoilers Abound):

  • How did the Doyles know that Catalina and Noemi’s genetics were compatible?
  • How did they know that Noemi’s are more compatible than Catalina’s?
  • I was rather shocked to find out that this book was based in the 1950s as it was referenced that women didn’t have the right to vote in Mexico during the timeframe that this book was set; a right they didn’t gain until 1953. This decade that the novel was based also contrasted with the lack of electricity in High Place. 
  • I had such a hard time picturing Virgil courting Catalina. How was he able to leave High Place?
  • I had a hard time buying the romance between Noemi and Francis. Will it continue once she returns to the life she loves? Will Francis ever be ‘normal’ after living his whole life in High Place?
  • Leocadio would not have accepted his daughter staying in High Place. What would have happened had he made the trip?
  • What a unique concept for immorality by applying a symbiotic relationship with humans and fungi! I feel like this idea had so many routes Moreno-Garcia could have navigated the story. 
  • Talk about horror! Agnes being a living sacrifice after the birth of her child and being the source of The Gloom was another thought-provoking aspect of Mexican Gothic that was only explored at its surface. With everyone in The Gloom, even Ruth, did she haunt her family members?

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