“Tragedy and blessing. Leave them alone long enough, and it gets real hard to tell them apart.”
Elena Alvarez is living a cursed life. From the deadly fire she accidentally set as a child, to her mother’s abandonment, and now to an unwanted pregnancy, she knows better than most that small actions can have terrible consequences. Driven to the high mountains surrounding Leadville, Colorado by her latest bad decision, she’s intent on putting off the future. Perhaps there she can just hide in her grandmother’s isolated cabin and wait for something—anything—to make her next choice for her.
Instead, she is confronted by reflections of her own troubles wherever she turns—the recent widower and his two children adrift in a changed world, Elena’s own mysterious family history, and the interwoven lives within the town itself. Bit by bit, Elena begins to question her understanding of cause and effect, reexamining the tragedies she’s held on to and the wounds she’s refused to let heal.
But when the children go missing, Elena’s fragile new peace is shattered. It’s only at the prospect of fresh loss and blame that she will discover the truth of the terrible burdens we take upon ourselves, the way tragedy and redemption are inevitably intertwined—and how curses can sometimes lead to blessings, however disguised.
Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: Arcade Publishing (May 9, 2017)
Among the Lesser Gods takes place in 1978, set mostly in the mountains of Colorado--although the writing makes it seem rather timeless--except for the absence of cell phones and other small things, it could just as easily be set in current day. The writing is gorgeous--I love when a place comes to life through words, and I found myself almost seeing the town of Leadville and its surrounding beauty as I read Margo Catts's descriptions. The characters are well-drawn--flawed, but easy to root for. Although I wasn't immediately drawn to Elena at the start of the book, as her story unfolded I found myself liking her more and more and enjoying watching her grow as she began to find empathy and understanding for others and even for herself. Her grandmother, Tuah, was my favorite character with her caring and her wise words, like: "Not making a decision is a decision too. And I'm not saying you made a wrong one. But you did make one." We don't get to know the other characters quite as much, but I enjoyed the family Elena cares for and the friends she makes within the town.
I think we all have things that we wish we had done differently and that make us wonder if we had made a different choice or taken another action, would things have been been better for us or for those we may have impacted? Whether those things happened when we were children, or when we were old enough to know better, and regardless of whether they are small or bigger, more tragic actions, I know very few people who don't have regrets or guilt. Among the Lesser Gods is ultimately about finding forgiveness and healing and it connected with me, touched my heart, and made me think. Once I was into the story, I found it hard to put down and I was sorry to see it end--it was a pleasure to read. This is the author's debut novel and I look forward to reading more from her.
Author Notes: Margo Catts grew up in Los Angeles and has since lived in Utah, Indiana, and Colorado. After raising three children in the U.S., she and her husband moved to Saudi Arabia, where her Foreign Girl blog was well known in the expat community. Originally a freelance editor for textbooks and magazines, she has also done freelance writing for business, technical, and advertising clients, all the while working on her fiction. She is a contributing author to Once Upon an Expat. Among the Lesser Gods is her first novel. She now lives in Denver, Colorado.
You can connect with Margo on her website, Facebook, Twitter, & Instagram
There was a fair amount of food to be found in Among the Lesser Gods. Mentions included: burritos, pancakes with nopales syrup, a western cheeseburger and a plain single with onion rings and a Dino's Dessert Pie, lobster, fruit, meat and a gallon of milk, oatmeal, pancakes, sandwiches, cherries, spinach, cereal (Cheerios, Cap'n Crunch and Frosted Flakes), pretzels, peanuts, Fritos, pizza and cheese, eggs and sausage. There was a tuna fish sandwich on white bread, crackers, a greenish banana and store-bought cookies for lunch, eggs in a hole, ham sandwiches and chips, tortilla chips and salsa, sloppy joes, butter and sugar sandwiches with chips, Ding Dongs, a spaghetti dinner, barbecued chicken with baked beans, coleslaw, potato salad and fruit salad, s'mores, ice cream with chocolate syrup, goulash and mixed greens for a salad, lemon cookies and funnel cake, stroganoff and a strawberry milkshake.
Since it's been warm and humid here, I had my dish picked from the beginning of the book where Elena is remembering road trips to Colorado and the food that saved the mostly silent trips with her father. "Harvey's served fresh fruit shakes made with watermelon and cantaloupe and peaches, ice cream, and cold milk, and we would sit at a white table, our hands wrapped around the sweating cups, icing our throats and shivering while we looked out the window at the heat waves rising off the car."
How good does that sound on a warm summer day?! On her solo trip back, Elena has a blackberry shake but it was the watermelon that stuck in my mind and I happened to buy a mini watermelon over the weekend. Because a lot of dairy doesn't agree with my asthma and allergies, I kept my shake vegan--but no less delicious.
Watermelon Milkshake (Vegan)
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Makes 2 Servings)
3 cups watermelon cubes (de-seeded), frozen at least 3 hours
about 1 1/2 cups non-dairy vanilla ice cream
1 cup non-dairy milk
1 Tbsp agave (or sweetener of choice), or to taste
1/2 Tbsp lemon juice, or to taste
Place the frozen watermelon cubes, ice cream and milk into a blender and blend until smooth. Taste and add agave and lemon juice to taste and blend for another 30 seconds.
Pour into glasses and serve.
Notes/Results: This shake is cool, creamy, and sweet, but not too sweet. The watermelon flavor is there but not overpowering mixed in with the vanilla ice cream and milk. The watermelon I had could have been a bit sweeter so I added some agave syrup, but if your watermelon is very sweet, you might not need it. I think the lemon juice pulls out the flavors and I recommend it. I kept mine non-dairy with coconut milk ice cream and unsweetened coconut milk but you could certainly use dairy. I was torn between cantaloupe and watermelon so I plan on buying a cantaloupe and trying it too. It totally hit the spot on a humid day. I would happily make this again.
I'm linking this post up to the Weekend Cooking event at Beth Fish Reads, a weekly event that is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share. For more information, see the welcome post.
Note: A review copy and a giveaway copy of "Among the Lesser Gods" was provided to me by the publisher, Arcade, and TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for this review and as always, my thoughts and opinions are my own.
You can see the stops for the rest of this TLC Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.
The publisher is generously providing a copy of Among the Lesser Gods to give away (U.S./Canada addresses only, please) here at Kahakai Kitchen.
To enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway below, leave a comment (Because I like to read them!) ;-) telling me your favorite flavor of milkshake or your favorite summer fruit.
There are a couple of other optional ways to get more entries to win: 1) Tweet about this giveaway or 2) follow me on Twitter (@DebinHawaii) and/or Author Margo Catts (@MargoCatts), and/or Publisher Arcade (@arcadepub) on Twitter. (Note: You can still get extra entries even if you already follow me, the author, or publisher on Twitter.)
Deadline for entry is 12:00 AM (HST) Thursday, June 22nd.
a Rafflecopter giveaway