review: The Queen of Water

The collaboration between Farinango and Resau has resulted in a powerful, well-paced story that will appeal to teen and adults readers alike" ~Lyn Miller-Lachmann

title: Queen of Water

author: Laura Resau and Maria Virginia Farinango

date: Delacorte Press, 2011

main character: Maria Virginia Farinango

Queen of Water is a contemporary tale of Ecuador. It is the age old story of haves vs. have-nots and how the most powerless (mostly  women and children and double so if you are a woman child) get lost in the crossfire. The story began in real life when Laura Resau met Maria Virginia Farinango and Resau realized there was a story to be told. Resau continued to meet with Farinango and even traveled to Ecuador to put this story together. Is if fact based fiction.

At a very young age, Virginia is removed from her family home and is taken to the city to work in the home of an upper middle class/mestizo doctor and her teacher husband. The situation is far less than idea for Virginia but in telling this story, Virginia has the memories of a child which has her questioning her place in her family’s home.  She thinks her mother doesn’t want her, that she was given away. Time after time, Virginia gives up on chances to runaway and to go back home.

We feel so much of her strength in her telling of the story that we can easily miss how beat down she has become, how complacent she is and how she has become physically and emotionally enslaved in working for this family. If her own family had not come to her rescue, she might not have ever found herself. Finding her way back to her real family is as essential to the story as finding herself.

After living with the mestizo couple, she’s given up her Quichua language and dress but when she re-enters the world, she has to figure where she belongs. Her roots are clearly Quichua and she fears that anyone who looks closely will know that she is indegenas. Indegenas are not respected and surely she doesn’t want to be one of them!  But she feels like an impostor in those clothes!

For a girl such as Virginia who teaches herself so many skills necessary to survive there really could only be one hero: McGuyver! I loved the quirky addition of this cult hero and he spoke to Virginia’s ingenuity and how surreal it was for it to still be possible to exert so much control over another human being, yet it continues to happen every day.

I have to say that through this book I’ve come to admire Resau’s sense of integrity for honoring the true telling of this story, for not ignoring the true source of this story and for calling it fiction based in fact rather than trying to sell it as fact.

I think it would be very interesting to pair this book with the Evolution of Calpernia Tate.

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