Miguel is a first year teacher from Mexico City who has gone to a small town rural hills of Puebla for his first teaching job. The story is written mainly from the perspective of Miguel and his narrative voice is one that is gentle and thoughtful. There is fluidity to the writing that allows Miguel to seamlessly take the reader from present to past and back again throughout the novel without interrupting the overall rhythm of the story. The author captures Miguel’s nervousness as to whether he will be a good teacher and be accepted by his students and the community, as well as his fear at their reactions should they discover that he is gay. Throughout his year at the Internado (boarding school), Miguel both teaches and learns. His relationship with Ruben, the owner of a candy store, and his experiences with his students and the people of the community prove invaluable life lessons that all contribute to his growth and maturity, and ultimately to his self-acceptance.
The writing can be quite poetic at times:
“In the dark of the evening, while the water from the heavens saturated the hills and the soil and the roots of every tree, the mountainside exploded. The gigantic rock which was the hillside above the cave opening came down in one piece, shattering against the earth into boulder bigger than burros that rolled down to places where they wedges between mighty trees and larger stones left there from the mountain’s previous madness. Water spewed out as if escaping from a cage. The groaning dies down as if the mountain was finally relieved, but the water continued to gush steadily with less pressure but greater quantity.
“Normal” refers to being a new teachers. Many years ago teacher training schools were called “Normal Schools.”
It’s a good read.