Reviewed by Frank Mundo
In poet Melinda Palacio‘s debut novel, Ocotillo Dreams, we meet a young woman named Isola, a green-eyed, “exotic-looking” Mexican-American “often mistaken for Thai or Filipino” whose mother’s death couldn’t have come at a worse time in her life. Just one fellowship short of becoming a full professor in San Francisco, Isola, drowning in credit card debt, lawyer fees and student loans, is suddenly forced to put her future on hold to settle her mother’s estate in Chandler, Arizona.
Her plan is to temporarily relocate to Chandler, pack up her mother’s house and sell it as quickly as possible and return to her life in San Francisco. With the help of her lawyer, Isola figures the whole process should only take a couple of weeks at most. But Isola, self-absorbed and a bit spoiled, has more baggage than she realizes. The self-proclaimed “reigning champ of awkward moments,” Isola discovers Cruz Zarate, a handsome stranger sleeping in her mother’s house, which is just one of the many startling secrets of her mother’s hidden life that challenge Isola’s understanding of her troubled relationship with her mother, her unresolved issues with her father’s death (and her inheritance) and her strange obsession over the break-up with her boyfriend three years before.
Read the rest at Frank Mundo’s LA Books Examiner.
About the author
Melinda Palacio was born in Huntington Park, California. She studied Comparative Literature at UC Berkeley and earned a graduate degree in the same field at UC Santa Cruz. She is a 2007 PEN USA Emerging Voices Rosenthal Fellow.