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Midnight Cactus

3.47  ·  Rating details ·  338 ratings  ·  55 reviews
The best-selling author of Hunting Unicorns returns with a stirring and suspenseful tale of love and the quest for freedom, vividly set in the wild lands between Arizona and the Mexican border. On the run from her claustrophobic marriage in London, Alice Coleman moves her two small children to the American desert hoping to find the solitude she craves but hadn’t thought po ...more
Paperback, 448 pages
Published December 8th 2006 by Grove Press, Black Cat (first published January 1st 2006)
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3.47  · 
Rating details
 ·  338 ratings  ·  55 reviews

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Feb 14, 2016 rated it liked it
I don't usually write long reviews, but I feel driven to defend this book. Some of the critical reviews on Goodreads seem to be written by people who missed the humor. It's true the main character is a bit of a ditz, especially at the beginning. One reviewer criticized the book because Alice, the character, should have known about rattlesnakes. But Alice is a city slicker (a Londoner), so OF COURSE she doesn't know. It's FUNNY... The handsome cowboy puts her straight later. Someone else complain ...more
Sep 13, 2011 rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction
Not worth your time. Just another book about a woman who is dissatisfied in her marriage. She drags her children from Scotland to Arizona to put some space in her marriage. I didn't finish reading the book. Her children come off as brats, which she fails to see or discipline. The mystery was somewhat intriguing, but not enough to hold me to the book despite the annoying self-centeredness of the main character.

Also, obviously Bella Pollen and/or her editor failed to do minimal research on Arizona
Aug 13, 2008 rated it did not like it
Shelves: book-club
I really didn't like this book. I'm able to remember it with a little more appreciation after we talked about it at book club. (Well, other people talked...I mostly ranted about the main character being British and hating tea...sorry, everyone.) I did not enjoy reading this book...but it did elicit a reaction from me, so maybe it's not all bad. I was infuriated with Alice, the main character, throughout the entire novel. She's self-indulgent, self-serving, self-centered and just plain selfish. I ...more
Freda Lightfoot
Oct 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book which moves along at a good pace. Alice has run away from London to escape a dead end marriage, and taken her children to a ghost town in the Arizona desert near the Mexican border. It is empty and arid, a bit on the wild side, and life here is completely alien to the one the family is used to back home. Alice meets Duval, a cowboy builder, Benjamin, a Mexican with a lop-sided smile, Nora, a ten-tonne former hairdresser, who all seem to have some mystery about them. Al ...more
Jul 12, 2011 rated it it was ok
I'm getting tired of books with young British children and an author who can't tell the difference between "precocious" and "obnoxious".
The pacing of the book was strange. It was ACTION, boring... boring... boring... BORING... ACTION!, odd non-ending.
Nov 20, 2015 rated it did not like it
Absolute drivel, life is too short, I actually gave up
Aug 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
The author has an interesting writing style that I began to enjoy once I got used to it. The story is set in Arizona, so I was intrigued by her descriptions of the landscape and towns, as I now live there in the winter. She deals with the immigration issue and native rights in her narrative that leave one thinking. There's a nice progression that leads to a climax that gets you totally involved. I'm going to check out her other books.
Jul 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Difficult book to describe. Love story, adventure, mystery, realistic story of the modern day Mexican-American border and all the turmoil there. To understand the plight of Mexicans crossing the dessert, looking for a better life, this is the book to read.
Shelleyrae at Book'd Out
It was a little slow to start with and I wasn't sure where it was going but eventually I found it quite intriguing - mainly for the story surrounding border crossings and the issues surrounding that.
I thought the female lead was an idiot at times, she could be incredibly thoughtless and selfish and naive but I am willing to temper that with the idea that her unfamiliarity with the country really would mean she would have little clue, and her lifestyle was previously all about her. Not the best
Jun 22, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This is one of those books that involves the landscape as a character in the story. Alice brings her two children from London to Temerosa, Arizona, ostensibly to start rehabbing the ghost town her husband has been saddled with. The plan is to turn it into a retreat or a spa-town.

Within days, she finds herself adjusting to life on her own. The contractor she hires on the advice of the town's caretaker seems to hate her very presence and his employees, she discovers, change daily. They also don't
Jul 31, 2015 rated it did not like it
I am going to be critical here. Usually I give authors a bit of slack but there is so much wrong with this book. It could have been a good story but it was ruined by the fact that this author does NOT know anything about Arizona. If one is going to write about a place that they don't know about they should learn about it first. And...where was the editor here? So the story is about a mother who is pissed at her husband because he doesn't understand her so drags her brats (age 5 & 7 )to the o ...more
Sep 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
Having enjoyed Hunting Unicorns, I looked forward to reading this book. It is a much more serious story that deals with some difficult topics and feelings. Pollen juxtaposes the story of a woman escaping a comfortable life but unsatisfying marriage with the stories of illegal immigrants escaping poverty and hardship but leaving behind loved ones and treasured relationships. The exploration of relationships, feelings and loyalties is subtle but quite striking. Some of the themes are complex and c ...more
Oct 03, 2012 rated it liked it
I'd actually like to give this 3.5 stars for the record, but I don't think that's possible. Anyway, I enjoyed this more than I thought I would after the first few chapters. I found the main character quite difficult to engage with initially, but found her much more likeable by the end of the book.

The story itself was interesting and compelling,raising questions about racism that are certainly valid outside the Arizona setting of the book. An enjoyable read that makes you think a little bit about
Mar 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Thia was a good read. I think it could easily be on Oprah Winfrey's book list. A great story about life and the lessons we learn. The trials of doing the right thing when we feel like something else. The story takes place in the severe desert of Arizona and Mexico on the border. Hsving spent some time in Tuscon and visiting Nogales Mexico it was fun to read the story and remember the place. I personally like fairy tale endings which this does not I have already imagined an alternate en ...more
Mar 28, 2009 rated it it was ok
I hate to say it, but I got super bored with this book. It seemed to drag on and on! The characters were fine, and it was a great story, but I felt like the author took too long to get to the point. Alice moves from London to a small border town in Arizona with her two young children. She is fleeing from her failing marriage, and is seeking to redefine herself and start a new life. The book deals heavily with immigration politics, and the hardships faced by the immigrants and the people who try ...more
Lori Aberle
Aug 16, 2008 rated it liked it
A very insightful book.
As an American living in England, it was interesting to read about the reverse. In this book, however, the protagonist has major family and self-discovery issues. Plus the moral dilemmas involved with living near the Mexican border.

I didn't like the fact that the children are very much on the peripheral and always cast into the care of others. Sure, there are a few touching moments, but the mothering left a lot to be desired.

I did find the ending to be VERY disappointing
Jan 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
I got this book at a local charity shop and it's been sitting on my bookshelf for over a year when suddenly I re-read the blurb and decided to give it a go... boy, I'm so glad I did.
This book was very well written in an easy prose. The plot and characters have the right complexity to keep the reader intrigued and in suspense.I love the setting and the comparisons between the UK and Mexico. I would definitely recommend this novel.
Sep 11, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2008
This was as good as Hunting Unicorns, but more serious. Extremely well written, although I did not like the protagonist's children. I don't believe they were intended to be "children only a mother could love," but that was my reaction. However, this did not interfere with my enthusiastic enjoyment of the book. I also now have a deeper understanding of the humane elements of the illegal immigration issue.
Oct 31, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
One word: unputdownable!! I thoroughly enjoyed this road novel; although it is not really a road novel, it certainly has the feel of it. The characters were intriguing and I could identify with Alice which made the story all the more appealing, of course. Which is why I regret the lame ending: I would have given this book 4 stars if it weren't for that.
Jun 26, 2008 rated it liked it
Between 2 1/2 and 3 stars. Easy to read - good social commentary (about illegals crossing the border). Interestingly, this was a huge hit with critics from England (the author is from England), but it's all about the Southwest U.S. She's a decent writer and some of it was very good; but it bogged down in a few places.
Nov 08, 2016 rated it liked it
At first this didn't grab me and I wanted to put it down. But reading for book group so carried on. Although the main character still really annoyed me the developing story line of immigrants and the Mexican border was interesting especially given the current US elections. Felt the explanation of the letter was a bit flat.
May 31, 2014 rated it liked it
After reading Hunting Unicorns I decided to read another book by Bella pollen. Quite different, but I enjoyed this one too. I usually go for Murder and Crime and this in the end had a bit of a both but not in the way I usually find. This is more light hearted and focused on the main character rather the crimes being committed or who will solve them.
Aug 18, 2009 added it
Another great summer read. Also living in AZ, and familiar w/the topography of southern AZ and it's concerns of immigrants in relation to a woman from the Orknay Islands and her childrens experiences in a totally differnt setting, makes great reading. She's can also be quite humerous; a quick entertaining read.
Aug 12, 2010 rated it liked it
This book was weird. I had a *really* hard time getting into it, and almost gave up. I read another entire book and then went back to it only because I hadn't been to the library. Then it got really good. Maybe I was just slow to make some connections. I liked what it had to say about immigration and how it showed it's definitely not a black and white issue easily solved.
Betty McMahon
Aug 11, 2016 rated it liked it
I loved the Summer of the Bear. This one, not so much. Hackneyed plot-- woman leaves husband, goes out West, meets hunky, dangerous man, falls in love ... Ho-hum ... Also typical understanding of Mexican border (I live there). It's very complex.
Jul 30, 2011 rated it really liked it
I thought this would be chicky lit, nothing special, but it captured my imagination -probably due to being well written and interestingly paced. Elements of Midnight Cactus reminded me of The Totilla Curtain.

I loved the relationship between Benjamin and the children.
Jan 29, 2008 rated it really liked it
Smarter than Hunting Unicorns . A bit of a socially commentary. Entertaining.
Lisa Beattie
Oct 16, 2007 rated it liked it
Pretty easy going read, with a good dollop of romance and wistfullness thrown in. Bit slow to start off with but soon speeds up.
Jan 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
An interesting read. Just wish it had had a different!!
Lolipop Mummad2
Feb 04, 2008 marked it as to-read
Looking forward to this one..
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Raised in New York , Bella Pollen is a writer and journalist who has contributed to a variety of publications, including Uk and American Vogue, The Times, the Sunday Telegraph and the Observer.

Author of five previous novels, including the best selling Hunting Unicorns and critically acclaimed Summer of the Bear, Pollen has tackled a broad spectrum of subjects from Cold War intrigue to decline of t
“Women only cut their hair in times of crisis... It's somethin' a woman always has the power to do, even when she loses control over everything else. Cuttin' hair is a cry for help.” 89 likes
“Children expect their mothers to love them, no matter what. Those who don't get this tend to feel cheated the rest of their lives.” 22 likes
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