Friday, April 13, 2012

Review ~ THE EARTHQUAKE MACHINE, by Mary Pauline Lowry

The Earthquake Machine
The Earthquake Machine tells the story of 14 year-old Rhonda. On the outside, everything looks perfect in Rhonda's world but at home Rhonda has to deal with a manipulative father who keeps her mentally ill mother hooked on pharmaceuticals. The only reliable person in Rhonda's life is her family's Mexican yardman, Jesús. But when the INS deports Jesús back to his home state of Oaxaca, Rhonda is left alone with her increasingly painful family situation.

Determined to find her friend Jesús, Rhonda seizes an opportunity to run away during a camping trip with friends. She swims to the Mexican side of the Rio Grande and makes her way to the border town of Boquillas, Mexico. There a peyote-addled bartender convinces her she won't be safe traveling alone into the country's interior. So with the bartender's help, Rhonda cuts her hair and assumes the identity of a Mexican boy named Angel. She then sets off on a burro across the desert to look for Jesús.

Thus begins a wild adventure that explores the borders between the United States and Mexico, adolescence and adulthood, male and female, English and Spanish, and adult coming-of-age and Young Adult novels. ~ From GoodReads

I have to open by saying "Wow". THE EARTHQUAKE MACHINE is one intense book. From the opening chapter, with main character Rhonda relaying the sad details of her life, her inner angst, this story was, like I said, intense.

Mainly, the THE EARTHQUAKE MACHINE is a journey through the development of an emotionally damaged young girl. Rhonda essentially has no one to guide her through the sometimes turbulent transition from girl to woman. The main focus of her distress is gender and sexuality. Rhonda feels so much shame with the attention and difficulties that come with being a woman, that she actively avoids puberty, going so far as to starve herself so she won't develop physically, and passing herself off as a teen boy. Like many young teens, she is fairly obsessed with the sexual experience, and the shame that often goes with it.

The author's writing flows well. The narrative is in third-person point of view, which is often tough for me. I personally prefer first-person, because it helps me form a better connection with the charcters. Despite that, Lowry definitely did a superb job at conveying everything the main character experienced.

THE EARTHQUAKE MACHINE is not a light, easy breezy book. The subject matter is not for the  readers at the younger end of the young adult spectrum. And for the older, there should be discussion about the event and larger themes of the story. To be perfectly honest, there were a few parts that disturbed me. A lot. A LOT. They just didn't sit well with me. And I'm no shrinking violet.  I can see where to some readers, this book could be profound. THE EARTHQUAKE MACHINE, in my eyes, was essentially about taking ownership in your body.

It's been more than a day since I've written this review. I feel I must make some sort of comment about the events in the book that bother me. In the book, there are three events of what is essentially sexual assault on a minor. The character is a willing, active participant in two of the cases. No matter. She is a child. In the other case, she isn't an actual participant, but watches an adult engage in a sexual act. Once again, she is a child. It's disturbing. I know these things, sadly, actually happen in real life. But the fact that these events are not even addressed as morally wrong, a crime, disturbs me. This is only my opinion. But I would feel as if I'd not been honest in my review if I didn't point this out.

Favorite Quote:

"She was a puma, sprinting through the forest, sleek and wild. Nothing and no one could catch her or take her down. She was a shooting star, flashing through the jungle sky." (ebook, 38%)

Published September 2011 by AuthorHouse                     

You can purchase THE EARTHQUAKE MACHINE at:
Barnes & Noble  |  Amazon  |  Book Depository

Source: Received from author for review.


  1. Wow this does sound like an intense book. The same things that bothered you would probably also bother me. Thanks for the great and honest review hon!!

  2. Wow this sounds very profound I love books like this once in a while. This cover really rocks too it's definitely eye catching! Great review chick!

  3. The cover is pretty, but knowing what the story involves, kinda ruins it for me. I know this was a tough one for you. I'm not sure I could've finished it. Your review captured your thoughts and concerns perfectly! Thanks for sharing. :)

  4. If I were to judge this book by the cover, I would have thought it was about faeries. :( It sounds like an intense story, but based on your assessment of the novel, I don't think I could read it. I applaud you for trying something different and even difficult, and I appreciate your honesty in the review.

  5. I like some disturbing books but then others are just too much for me. It's always hard to know which ones I will like. This sounds interesting though.

  6. Um, yeah. perfectly said. Very honest and sincere.

    I will also agree with Jen, this cover give the impression that it's a fairy book. Then the description gives no clue to what your really going to get.. because I know.. you told me. Wow. i'm still blown away about this.

    your after thoughts are my afterthoughts and I haven't even read it. After what you have told me though, I know I will not be reading it.

  7. Thanks for the honest and balanced review! I recently finished this book and I was simply astonished by the beauty of the writing, but I also wanted the disturbing scenes to be addressed a bit more authoritatively in terms of right and wrong. However, I understand that they were probably excluded because Rhonda/Angel herself is confused about what is "normal" and acceptable... but in this case it's enough for me to suggest that this book NOT be advertised as YA, but straight adult fiction. It is very, very adult.


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