ONE OF SAMANTHA WOOD'S earliest childhood memories is of her grandfather giving her a wobbly rubber map of Mexico that pulled apart like a jigsaw puzzle. He told her of the nomadic Culua-Mexica, who built a great empire in the valley of Mexico and became known as the Aztecs. Suddenly, the wanderers were a people with a new identity, a home...
Like her ancestors, Samantha yearns to find a place she can call home. Raised on the enticing glimpses of a dark and magical land conjured up by her Mexican mother's bedtime stories - a land oozing Latin rhythms, full of passion and fire, from bullfights to family feuds and bloody revolutions, roasted iguana and beans, to sugar skeletons - what begins as a visit to her enigmatic grandmother becomes a quest to find out what it means to be Mexican.
But as she learns to embrace Mexico verdadero - the real Mexico - she discovers a people who give a new meaning to larger than life, the fabulous strong women who rule the roost, the colourful macho men who think they do, and the invincible bonds between family, food, and the spirit world.
Always an outside, this nomad at last feels she has come home.
Samantha Wood is the author of the memoir, Culua: My Other Life in Mexico, which was published in 2003. The Bay of Shadows, her first novel, was published in December 2016 and was inspired by the beach town where she grew up. Her follow-up novel, Under Ten Thousand stars, a love story set in wine country, was released in May 2019.
She began her writing career with a travel piece for the Qantas In-Flight magazine. From then on, she travelled extensively between Mexico and Australia before writing the memoir, Culua: My Other Life in Mexico, a love letter to her mother’s country. She went on to write The Bay of Shadows, a novel about the unconventional bonds of love, and Under Ten Thousand Stars, another tale of love against the odds. Her third novel, The Song of Clouds, set on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula, and the last book in the Coastal Noir Trilogy was released on February 28, 2022. She lives in a coastal town outside of Melbourne, Australia.
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Maybe because I enjoy reading books where the characters try to find their identities, or maybe because I was desperately in need of a break to some faraway places. This book caught my interest and had me glued. The first few pages were interesting but I wondered if I would be reading a whole book of complains and discomfort about Mexico. I almost put down the book. Glad I didn't because subsequently the writer described a more positive, exploratory immersion into the Mexican culture, which was in my opinion, interesting.
"Don't you want to know where you come from?" - that was the beginning of the quest. "It's like I never left" - this insightful comment was made by both Samantha and her mother, unknowingly, at separate times. And I smiled because that's what a home should be, you could be away for a long period of time and yet when you return, everything is as it was, as if you never left.
"Your family are not just people. There are as much a part of you as your own limbs. Without them you're incomplete."