I can imagine the genesis of this novel thusly: Author goes to Mexico’s Yucatan to visit the Mayan ruins and is annoyed by crass commercialization and mindless, drunken hordes of sun-seeking partygoers. She then decides to write a novel that will highlight the importance of respecting local culture and the dangers of a) spring break and b) trusting strangers.
(I’ve not been to Mexico, but I have been to the Guatemalan Yucatan to visit Tikal. I can’t imagine why anyone would chose empty partying over experiencing the beauty of “rediscovering” lost cultures. But obviously they do.)
And the novel does work well on that level. There’s a definite sense of foreboding that grows stronger as you read. And the scenes at the Mayan temple are riveting, informative and poetic.
The structure is odd. Chapters alternate between Anne’s very plain character telling us in first person, past tense, unadorned prose what went down on the fateful trip and chapters about Michelle’s experiences told in third person omniscient, present tense in hazy, magical realism infused passages. All this leads to one of the most bizarre endings I’ve read in awhile.
If you’re looking for something different, this is a quick yet memorable read that will have you thinking twice before you accept a ride from a stranger in the middle of nowhere.