BAM! I’ve been able to squeeze in a decent amount of reading time lately, and although I have an extensive reading list because I stumble across so many interesting things at work, I fished this little baby off of the $2 cart and couldn’t resist. The Accidental Santera by Irete Lazo details female scientist Gabrielle Segovia’s journey into the forbidden world of the Santeria religion. Mystical. Magical. Ooooh. Voodoo. Animal sacrifices. Eww…
I DON’T PRACTICE SANTERIA, I AIN’T GOT NO CRYSTAL BALL…. Ok, ok, I’m done joking now. (And please, you know you thought it too.)
The main thread in the book was that Dr. Segovia desperately wanted children, but had been unable to conceive with her husband Benito for years. She kept experiencing miscarriages, as well as phantom hand movement and vivid dreams during the night. One conference trip to New Orleans with her best friend, and margarita-fueled near indiscretion with a sexy Spaniard causes her to realize her life isn’t going exactly as planned. Enter, la botanica (or grocery store for herbs/potions/and sacrificial animals). One spontaneous venture into the magic shop and BOOM! Enter Santeria by way of her long lost family.
I will say, I was really surprised by this book. I’m am a book snob in a lot of ways, and it is common for me to turn up my nose at a book simply because it’s in a sale bin. It can’t be good if it’s a bargain, right? Wrong.
The Accidental Santera thoroughly engrossed me, from beginning to end. It was fascinating to learn about such a taboo religion from the eyes of a logical, modern female. (Ok, and I had a bit of twisted interest in the whole animal sacrifice thing. What the heck’s that all about?) It was cool to read about her journey from beginning to end, and I will say that I eventually ended up admiring Gabrielle’s connectivity with her new-found religion. I envy her in having something strong and spiritual to believe in. I also liked the way the religion honored the feminine aspect of the divine. The story was kept moving by not only Gabrielle’s inner turmoil, but as well as the fact that each of the supporting characters were interesting in their own right.
I will say that in my infinite blondeness, I went through the whole book believing that the author was writing directly about her own life story. Not so. This book is loosely based on her own experiences I’m sure, since Lazo is a scientist as well as a practicing santera, but Dr. Segovia is a made up character. Imagine my disappointment.
The only other thing that was a bit off was that, although I realize the book is about a Hispanic woman, there was a decent amount of Spanish sprinkled in for the average American reader. Lazo does a good job explaining it, but I will say that during some conversations if I hadn’t taken Spanish in college, I would’ve had no idea what they were talking about…
But all in all, I would definitely recommend The Accidental Santera for a quick read.
4 of 5 stars
(Alter to Yemaya, Goddess of the Sea and Motherhood)