Sunday, May 16, 2010

Book Review: The Accidental Santera by Irete Lazo

I spotted this book at a local new age shop but weeded it from my purchases (too many expensive stones to buy!) Low and Behold, a week or two later, my friend bought it for me for my birthday.  It is the story of one woman's journey to become a Santera.  Here is the Amazon blurb

A one-of-a-kind novel that plunges readers into the secrets of Afro-Cuban Santeria—a world of fascinating beauty, pulsating rhythms, and great mystery.
Gabrielle Segovia, Ph.D., is struggling to build a career as a Latina scientist, cope with her third miscarriage, and resuscitate her marriage to fellow biology professor Benito Cruz. Becoming a santera is not in her plans.
But everything changes when her best friend, the feisty Patricia Muñoz, drags her into a French Quarter voodoo shop during a conference in New Orleans. When Gabrielle gets home to the San Francisco Bay Area, the predictions from her on-a-whim reading begin to come true. That’s when she learns she hails from a long line of practitioners of Santeria, the religion created when Yoruba slaves combined their ancient rituals with Catholicism.
Out of desperation to become a mother and save both her job and her marriage, Gabrielle turns to Puerto Rican relatives living in Miami she hasn’t seen since she was a child. She finds herself warmly embraced by three generations of Segovia santeras and drawn into their world of séances, sacred drums, and ritual animal sacrifice.
Unexpectedly marked for initiation by the gods and goddesses of the Yoruba pantheon, Gabrielle must decide whether she can bring herself to answer the call. And, if she chooses, commit to the seemingly contradictory life of a scientist who is also a santera.
In this powerful debut novel, Irete Lazo captures a vibrant world still unknown to many and relates a journey that is at once funny, heart-wrenching, and, ultimately, triumphant.

I found the book very enjoyable.  The character of Gabrielle was likable and believable.  I was very happy to find that she was a grown woman, with a real job, who is called into a religion that doesn't fit with mainstream views.  It is a far cry from the typical "teen explores wicca, parents get mad, teen convinces them it is ok" Pagan fiction that one normally comes across.  While much of the plot was fairly predictable, the book provides a special view into a very mysterious religion that many of us would never get to see.  The only challenge I faced while reading this novel was that many of the characters would comment in Spanish.  Sometimes the translation was provided, but sometimes it wasn'tI do NOT do well with languages and so I was confused by some of the phrases and it impacted my understanding of some of the rituals.  I was also struck by how involved the entire religion is.  In asking for any favors, Gabrielle would have to perform many tasks, present offerings and sometimes make sacrifices (both of herself - ex: stop drinking - and of animals).  Once on the track toward becoming a Santera, Gabrielle would have to change many aspects of her life.  It got me wondering how much we would be willing to sacrifice or change for our own religious calling.  But, that is a discussion for another post...
All in All, The Accidental Santera was a very good read and I would recommend it for anyone who has even a passing curiosity with Santeria and would like a glimpse inside interesting and intricate religion.  It is a wonderful addition to the world of Pagan Fiction.

P.S I am a huge fan of Pagan Fiction, if there is anything else I MUST read, or any other books you would like to see reviewed, please let me know. 


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