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Kissing the Virgin's Mouth

3.4  ·  Rating details ·  475 Ratings  ·  74 Reviews
Guadalupe Magdalena Molina Vasquez -- wife, scoundrel, courtesan, mother -- is full of contradictions: she believes in love but is suspicious of men; she rejects religion but admires the Virgin Mary; she respects tradition while breaking all the rules. Here, in the Golden Zone of Teatan, Mexico, Magda tells her extraordinary life story -- from a poor Mexican barrio to Amer ...more
ebook, 240 pages
Published July 3rd 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers (first published February 1st 2001)
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Apr 05, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Purely as fiction, this was a fascinating portrayal of a strong, independent woman looking back on a life rife w/ experience and success, but also misfortune and mistakes - it read much like a memior WRT its immediacy and life. However, I was put on guard by the writer's choice of perspective - that of a Mexican protagonist who spends the majority of the novel in Mexico when in fact the writer is a white (middle class?) American who grew up in NC. I have to admit that held me back, but I guess i ...more
Dec 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A terrific book. Reads fast and delves deep. Engaging and funny, and also enlightening about the awkward intersection of Latino and gringo expectations of what it means to be a woman. I highly recommend this book.
The first Bellwether Award winner for fiction.
I truly enjoyed it but if one does not read Spanish it is a challenge at times.
I don't, so I am disappointed I could not follow the conversations at times. But I just kept on reading and would understand the idea.
The narrator tells the reader At the beginning that she makes it she is successful. If not for that I would not have finished the book, however she does so it makes one want to know HOW
Not everyone would be able to skim over the Spanish but
Catherine Hewitt
Aug 21, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Isabel Allende fans
Recommended to Catherine by: Barbara Kingsolver
Shelves: did-not-finish
After the first 20 pages, I lost interest, which was a disappointment because on the front cover there's a quote from Barbara Kingsolver that this is one of her favorite books (which was part of why I chose to read it).

This book is a memoir disguised as a novel, which could have been fine. Similar to Isabel Allende, Gershten relates her memories of growing up in a Latin-American community and uses a semi-spiritual, dream-like voice. The main character reminisces about how she received her multip
Another Barbara Kingsolver Bellwether Award book. I think this may have been the first to receive the award. If I had more knowledge of the Spanish language, I feel rather confident that this would have been a four star selection. I really liked the story and the way the author used both dialogue and reflections to tell the life story of Guadalupe Magdalena Molina Vasquez. But there were so many Spanish words and phrases, that even with context, I sometimes had trouble with the content. I think ...more
Veronica Erb
Apr 05, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
It took me until I was about two thirds of the way through this book to really feel pulled forward by it. I always have trouble with books that switch from one time to another, and even more so when that switching is unsystematic.

That said, I enjoyed seeing Magda's culture through her eyes, and I am glad to gain her perspective on the world. Narratives of people living between more than one culture (between countries and socio-economic class, Magda experienced an amazing variety in one life) are
Jun 10, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: spanish speakers
I had a hard time reading this because I know very little Spanish, and while the author translates some of it, she doesn't translate all of it. It was a lot like traveling in Mexico and staying in someone's home when neither of you have a great grasp of the other's language or culture. I felt out of place, uncomfortable.

But I think this says a lot more about me than it does about the author, because Gershten does some amazing things with this character and the format of the book itself. I would
Apr 08, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book started as a 2 for me but ended closer to a 4 so I will be kind and give it a 3. The woman in this fictional memior grew up in major poverty in Mexico. She deals with all kinds of terrible things that were hard for me to read. There was quite a bit of Spanish in the book that wasn't always translated. You might want to read it with a Spanish/English dictionaary on hand. However, many of the naughty little words she used will not be found in a dictionary. Maybe that's why it seemed so b ...more
Sep 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Love this book. It makes me homesick for my home away from home (Mazatlan), which seems to be the setting for this novel (although it is referred to as Teatlan in the book). I love that there is some Spanish in the story, giving it a more authentic feel and although the character of Magda speaks English, it's still from a Spanish perspective ie: Instead of saying "When I was 6 years old", she says "when I had 6 years", which is how it would be translated from Spanish. Even though the author isn' ...more
Apr 22, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great book about how we move through life based on the strange mix of one's background, personality and experiences. This was a pleasant reminder of why I read fiction - its ability to completely absorb you in another life and time because of its lack of restraints compared to nonfiction.

Guadalupe Magdalena Molina Vasquez grows up in extreme poverty in a Mexican barrio of Teatlán, but is able to create a life for herself in places like Tijuana, Monterrey, Guadalajara and even Moscow, Idaho. Gers
Judith Shadford
Feb 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It was a slow start for this Anglo. Lots of untranslated Spanish. But the character of Magdalena assumes a marvelous focus and emotional intensity as the little kid grows up in Mexico.
Gershten has received multiple awards for this novel, deserves all. In her credits she sites Barbara Kingsolver, the closest in tone in my reading to the world of Magdalena. Fear, absolute determination to wring the best guidance from the least likely, the world of Hispanic women in that old caricatured macho cult
Anya Yankelevich
She is a good descriptive writer. She really owns her main character - the reader's experience of the setting is totally vicarious. The denoument about 3/4 through the book is shocking because you don't expect the character to have real humility, but the story follows her to the point where her amazing luck and ability to cope in the world break down, and she has to choose between her old tricks and a new way of being in the world. This shift isn't very finessed, but feels real. A great novel fo ...more
Diana S
Jun 10, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2012
I give this book 3.5 stars***!
This book begins and ends on the rooftop of the home of Guadalupe Magdalena Molina Vasquez (Magda, for short). While sitting on the chair that once belonged to her Tia Chucha overlooking the golden zone of Teatlan, the resort city in Sinaloa, in Mexico. Where we learned the story of her life: businesswoman, courtesan, wife, mother. The cover is what caught my attention in the first place with the Virgen de Guadalupe. To Magda, the Virgen was very important to her. E
Jul 23, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
i would have given this 4 stars if the whole book had been as good as the first half that was so beautifully written that i practically felt like i was in mexico breathing the same heavily perfumed air as the narrator, who is a strong woman but as the book went on, she seemed to become self-destructive and lost in her own superstitions. also, people have criticized the spanish that doesn't have any english definitions with it...this was slightly annoying because i understood the spanish but i do ...more
Aug 17, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: woman-s-lit
This story- this main character is so far from me culturally, spiritually, emotionally, and languagewise that I spent most of my time lost amid the mixture of Catholism and Spanish. The cuss words I knew, but I didn't understand the main character at all. I never knew why she did what she did or why sexuality affected even the way she breathed. I don't think I've ever read a book about a woman that I didn't get the way I didn't get this one. More than a foreign location and culture, there was a ...more
Sep 15, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
needing a vacation read I picked this up and opened to a random page in the middle to see if it was going to 'grab' me. I had a hard time putting it down. So I packed the book.

I haven't been grabbed by the beginning of the book - but have been waiting to reach that middle section. I'm up to that point now and feel that it may pick up.

Not sure what's distracting me from reading vacation or all the Spanish words in the story or both or something else. I'm just not as sucked in as I'd hoped to be
Nov 17, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is set in Mexico, and I brought it with me on our honeymoon in Mexico to kind of help put me in the moment. I'm a big fan of reading fiction set in the locale where you are vacationing while you're there.

This book was pretty good. It reminded me of La Cucina. Mostly, I think books that pay homage to an ethnicity are enjoyable because they're typically filled with so much life and passion.

The author is also very talented. She has a beautiful writing style that is that of a great storyt
Jan 12, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who are bilingual (Spanish/English) or want to learn a lot of naughty Spanish swear words
I had a hard time getting into this book. I think it would help if you knew Spanish, although based on alot of the words I looked up I'm not sure that they're words you get taught in school! When I finally gave in to the idea that the phrases and words sprinkled liberally throughout were just going to remain a mystery to me, it got easier to get into the story although I think you probably lose some of the subtleties of the writing. Loved how the titles of the chapters made up Magda's "rosary". ...more
Jun 25, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Shelves: novels
A vivid and richly imagined story that journeys across culture, religion, and geography. The narrator never flinches or dissembles as she recounts her life from extreme poverty and the shackles of machismo to her new life in America (Idaho, of all places), then back to her roots and her home country. Even as she slowly loses her sight, she provides richly-colored images for the reader, we are with her on her roof watching the waves roll in, ocean spray stinging our eyes.
Feb 26, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: catholicism
I can't recommend this one. The description of Magdalena as a "courtesan" makes her sound a lot more active than she is, and her relationship with Guadalupe feels like an afterthought. Magdalena falls into relationships with men and just sort of floats in the relationship until she is put aside. Hardly inspiring. Still, I can't give this book a completely negative rating, because the writing is so vivid and the way the story is told, I was never bored, and always turned to the next chapter. Over ...more
A little "weird" at times, kind of like a novel from the Realismo Magico style but in a more readable and accesible way. Loved the way it was written, really liked the main character in all her beautifully flawed quirkiness. Not sure I would have been ok with all the Spanish thrown in there if I didn't speak it. Then again, I wouldn't have been able to be bothered by the mistakes in Spanish...that was a little off-putting. All in all, a good book and really tugged at my heart strings with all th ...more
Beautifully written story following the life of Magdalena from the slums of Teatlan, Mexico to America and back again.

Initially this book was very uncomfortable to read: life in the barrio is dirty, hard, and unforgiving. Things that the general American public are unfamiliar with and yes, it's startling to read about it. And therefore, leaves you extremely uncomfortable. But as the you continue with Magda's journey, you realize the barrio doesn't make the person, although it will always be with
This story is written from the perspective of a woman who was raised by a Mexican mother. It's the story of her mother's life in Mexico, her marriage to the woman's father and their move to America. It's full of stories about life in Mexico and the cultural differences between Mexicans and Americans. My favorite example is when the mother and daughter are walking down the street and they get the construction worker cat calls. The daughter, raised in America, is mad and thinks she's being objecti ...more
I would have given a higher rating but there was quite a bit of spanish that wasn't translated. Some I could sort of figure out but there are other lines that I wish I knew the translation. However an interesting book on how one woman see's and uses her sexuality to try and better her life. It reminds me of how women are viewed (sometimes)by men but if the women is aware of it and uses it to her advantage how society dislikes it...
Nov 06, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book was not very good, and it bothers me that I really like Kingsolver, and she gave this book an award. As others have mentioned the Spanish with no translation is excessive. I read this on an elliptical and did not have a English/Spanish dictionary with me. Also as someone mentioned, most of the Spanish appeared to be explicit so I think it might not have been in a dictionary anyway. Anyways, would not recommend.
Jan 01, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, book-club
Magda grows up in the barrio with a near-blind mother, a "ruined" aunt, a legless grandfather, and a philnadering father. By careful observation, she learns how to use her gifts (long legs and provocative beauty)to make her way in the world. She uses men to better herself, but never trusts them. 3 anbd 1/2 stars.
Apr 28, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

An emotionally compelling story about the strength of a woman & the love she has as both a daughter & mother herself. If you know Spanish, all the better. I read it with my iPhone set to Google translate next to me, which I'm sure took away from the poetry of the story. I'd love to read more from Donna M. Gershten.
Diana Olivares
A poignant telling of Guadalupe Magdalena Molina Vásquez's life, from the humble beginnings of her mother, aunt and grandfather to nearly the end of her life. Magda was born in Mexico, but her life often took her to the United States. Although the writing can be a little crass, what most comes across is the love and gratitude Magda feels for her life and those in it.
Great read from Gershten. The novel is fictional, imaginative and has a great insightful story following a woman's life through the barrio in Mexico to her old age. I liked the novelty of style, the richness of the attitude toward life; the acceptance of obstacles, the stubborness of a s trong and somewhat unsuitable woman. If I could figure out how to add four stars I would do it!
Lindsey Miller
"Even in the middle of the sweet and simple telling, I was tempted to insert the hard lessons. I did not want to lose an opportunity to teach Martina again: that love and lust are as common as hair. That happiness can make you weak. About the surprising charm of tenderness, the lazy seduction of security."
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