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26 January 2010

Gringa In A Strange Land by Linda Dahl, A Book Review and Tour

Title: Gringa In A Strange Land
Author: Linda Dahl
Publisher: Robert Reed Publishers
Publication Date: January 1, 2010
Paperback: 256 pages
ISBN: 978-1934759394
Genre: Literary Fiction


About the Book:

Gringa in a Strange Land brings back the exhilarating and confusing time of the “counterculture” in the early 1970’s.

Erica Mason, an American woman living in Mexico, is torn between working to become an artist and the lure of the drug culture.

Set mostly in the colonial city of Merida in the Yucatan peninsula, the story also moves among Mayan ruins, laid-back beaches and the cities of Belize and Oaxaca.

A host of bohemian expats and Mexicans, and the complex character of Mexico itself, infuse this portrait-of-the-artist-as-a-young-American, culminating in an unexpected resolution.

My Review:

Dahl captures the tumultuous years of 1973-1974 in her novel, Gringa In A Strange Land through the life of Erica Mason. By the time the reader is introduced to Erica Mason, she has been living in Mexico for two years. The book begins with her living in Merida, Yucatan, sharing rent with Sharon a fellow American and artist. Erica Mason is indeed a lost soul, living for her next fix, drink, or one night stand. While she yearns to paint and become famous, Erica remains lost, with no sense of self, wandering from place to place looking for the comfort of a routine she cannot maintain for long, as she is continuously lured back by the need for drugs and companionship, often in the form of sex. Early on in the novel, her roommate Sharon, makes a very appropriate remark, "All you do is get wasted. Every time I see you. You need to get your head together." Truer words were never spoken and Gringa In A Strange Land is about a young woman in search of herself. Dahl's novel is beautifully and artistically written with attention being given to even the smallest of details, as Dahl describes the country and the people. The novel is interspersed with Spanish on each page, lending to a more authentic experience of being in Mexico, combined with the intricate details of the foods, customs, and behaviours, one feels as though they too are in Merida or Oaxaca. While I did not find Erica to be a likeable character, I did enjoy the book for the rich history and detailed descriptions of lands I have not visited.

About the Author:

I have always loved to write about characters, usually edgy, little-known folks with wonderful stories and talents. I love places too and music, above all jazz. As a girl, I dreamed of traveling around the world and as soon as I could, I took to the road. I was fortunate to live and work in a number of Latin American countries. After college (Latin American Studies, University of Wisconsin), I moved to the Yucatan in Mexico, and then made the pilgrimage to another foreign country called New York with a suitcase and several hundred dollars. This was in the mid-l970’s.

Finding the requisite cheap, shabby apartment (you could still do so in those days), I started writing in earnest. I had a number of ridiculous jobs to pay the rent, such as writing reviews of C- movies I never actually saw (no one else seemed to be watching them either), driving an ice-cream truck in Central park for just one day until I had a fender-bender, and writing a history of all the world’s cheese with a two-week deadline for a manic food editor. I managed also to produce novels, biographies and essays about women in jazz, and quirky travel articles about such topics as the Carmen Miranda Museum in Rio, a priestess of Candomble, a.k.a. voodoo (interview in rudimentary Portuguese), and a Mayan folk healer.

I am happy to say that most of my writing efforts have been published, well-reviewed and are still in print. My latest novel, a love-child, is “Gringa in a Strange Land,” available in January 2010.

You can visit Linda Dahl’s website.

Linda Dahl’s GRINGA IN A STRANGE LAND VIRTUAL BLOG TOUR ‘10 officially began on January 4th and will end on January 29th. You can visit Linda’s blog stops at during the month of January to find out more about this great book and talented author!

I received a copy of Gringa In A Strange Land by Linda Dahl from Pump Up Your Book Promotion as part of the tour. Receiving a copy in no way reflected my review of aforementioned novel.



Wanda said...

I love books that plunk me down somewhere in the '70's, I'll mark this one for a closer look. Thanks for the review!

April said...

Great review, Jennifer! I wasn't sure if I would be really into this book, so passed on it, but am glad to know that you liked it.

Alaine - Queen of Happy Endings said...

Great review, glad you enjoyed it!

Doll Clothes Gal Pal said...

Thank you for the review! I will definitely check this out!

Dana said...

Sounds like an interesting book, something I'd definitely like to read!

Suzanne said...

Great review! I was curious about this book and your review made up my mind that it should go in my TBR pile!