May 11, 2008

Tarnished Beauty

By Cecilia Samartin

Sometimes, starting a book with no expectations is incredibly rewarding. The cover to TARNISHED BEAUTY seems erotic to me, all bare flesh and silky material. The typeface used on the cover screams science fiction. Neither is true of the novel. The blurb is accurate to the novel’s contents, but it seems plain. TARNISHED BEAUTY is anything but.

I love this novel. It pulled me in and did not let go even after I turned the last page, sometime between Anthropology and my bio section. I did not want to leave the world Samartin so vividly brought to life.

Jamilet possesses a beautiful face, but a hideous birthmark causes her superstitious Mexican village to shun her. She lives, unable to attend school, with her sickly and sad mother. Once her mother dies, she crosses the border to live with her aunt. Having grown up in scorned seclusion, Jamilet has trouble relating to others. Yet the boy across the street still helps her find employment at a local hospital. There she attends to the mysterious Señor Peregrino (Mister Pilgrim).

He forces Jamilet to listen to his story in the beginning, but she, like the reader, becomes entranced and listens of her own free will. He tells of his time as a pilgrim on the Road to Santiago in Spain. He and his friend Tomas eventually join with the beautiful Rosa and later the bold Jenny. It’s a tale of tangled loves, dedication, and dashed hopes. The story-within-a-story is perhaps even more beautiful than the tale that frames it.

Samartin’s characters are incredible. They are all flawed, but strong. Some are insecure; some are bold. Some are jaded; some are naïve. Every one of them seems real. Their stories resonate because of this strong sense of character.

People do not do great things in TARNISHED BEAUTY. Instead, they live. They connect. That’s enough for me.

TARNISHED BEAUTY does have a hefty cover price: 23.95 USD. Still, you can read it in the library and buy the paperback when it comes out. This is a book worth reading. Sometimes, starting a book with no expectations is incredibly rewarding because you discover a work of great beauty.

TARNISHED BEAUTY went on sale March 18th. You can find out more about Cecilia Samartin here.


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