Some novels are easier to write than others. I’ve penned six novels and by far the most emotionally challenging one is this last one, A Cricket of a Girl. It is a coming-of-age/historical fiction story, set in El Salvador in the 1950s and 1960s, just prior to the onset of the civil war.
In these days of troubling politics and mistrust of the immigrant, my novel takes place in another country, where the immigrant is an American woman, who neither looks like the others nor speaks their language. Let me give you a taste for how it begins:
I promised Figo that I would write this story, but I’ve always felt that stories which begin at the beginning can be a little, you know, boring. And sometimes it’s hard to even know where the beginning really is. Take my story, for instance. Does it begin a long time ago, way back when the Mayan and Pilpil Indians ruled this land, before the tall, white Spaniards arrived and conquered Cuzcatlán? That’s what my country, El Salvador, used to be called before they changed its name. It means “land of the precious things.”
Or does it begin when I’m born to my mother in 1944, as she sweats all alone in the mosquito-filled cabin? My grandparents built that house and she lived there with my father until he found out that she was pregnant with my youngest brother and he remembered and forgot at the same time. He remembered that he needed to go get some cigarettes from the market, then forgot where his house was and never came back.
No, I would argue that neither of these beginnings will do because sometimes things don’t look at all like they will turn into something interesting. I mean, it’s the same way even with plants. If you were new to the country, like my friend Doña Laura, and you didn’t know any better, how could you ever guess that the tiny, brown furry sprigs that you saw on a huge tree by the side of the road would someday evolve into large juicy mangoes and fall onto tin roofs of houses with a thonk?
There, I’ve gone and done it again. I was talking about how to begin my story and now I’ve gone and introduced you to some of my friends and told you about mango trees before you even settled into the story. Figo used to tell me that people had to listen closely to follow me, and they could not be like sloths, hanging in the high trees, casually observing the story from a distance. So, dear reader, I hope you are not wanting to be like a sloth, but more like a quetzal, which is a quick little bird which stays on my shoulder as I give you my version of how things happened.
“I fell in love with the story from the first page,” says Reina Sher-Kraft. “The story took me on a magical journey where I got to experience the true feelings and raw emotion of the person in the story. I could feel the pain, the love, the heartache, the joy, and the pride as the story unfolded. The characters were so well drawn that I didn’t need voluminous descriptions of the changes as they aged but was able to remember myself at each stage and place myself in the story. The story became mine and I was the participant and all the events were mine. This is the mark of a true story teller. The magical way that we can get lost in the story and imagine ourselves doing each thing that is written.
Although I didn’t grow up in El Salvador, I know what it was like to be poor and to have to go out and work at a very young age to help support the family. I could relate to the characters and all the trials and tribulations that they endured.”
“This subject is particularly timely, with what is going on in our current-day affairs and the disparity between the rich and the poor that we are now seeing on a global level (thanks to the internet),” said Lauren Sapala, author of The INFJ Writer.
Karla Mejia says, “This is my favorite book by Christy Esmahan! As a Salvadoran, the descriptions of the food, people, and culture of El Salvador along with the heartbreaking stories about the Civil War really resonated with me. I recommend this book for anyone interested in strong female protagonists, the power of love and friendship to transcend cultural barriers, or the history and culture of El Salvador.”
To purchase A Cricket of a Girl, please look for it on Amazon (Kindle and paperback.)