Regal House Publishing released my novel Curva Peligrosa on September 21, 2017.
Click these links to order Curva: https://www.amazon.com/Curva-Peligrosa-Lily-Iona-MacKenzie/dp/0998839809 or https://regalhousepublishing.com/product/curva-peligrosa/.
Here’s a glimpse into the book:
According to Steven Bauer, the professional editor who gave valuable feedback on the manuscript and author of The Strange and Wonderful Tale of Robert McDoodle and A Cat of a Different Color, “Curva Peligrosa is a wildly inventive, consistently engaging, and amusing comic novel, but under its bright exterior lurk darker undertones and truths; it’s a book which attempts to say serious and important things about language, story-telling, mortality, indigenous cultures, love, and sex.”
At its center is a big woman—Curva Peligrosa. Over six feet tall, she is possessed of magical powers. She also is adventurous, amorous, sexual, and fecund. With the greenest of thumbs, Curva creates a tropical habitat in an arctic clime, and she has a wicked trigger finger.
When she rides into the town of Weed, Alberta, she’s like a vision out of a surrealistic western, with her exotic entourage—two dogs, Dios and Diosa, and two parrots, Manuel and Pedro—and her glittering gold tooth, her turquoise rings, her serape and flat-brimmed hat, her rifle and six-shooters. After a long—twenty-year-long—trek up the Old North Trail from Mexico, she’s ready to settle down a bit. Her larger-than-life presence more or less overturns the town of Weed, whose inhabitants have never seen anything like her. She’s a curiosity and a marvel, a source of light and heat, a magnet.
In fact, she’s the physical embodiment of the tornado that will hit Weed two years after her arrival, a storm that turns the place upside down and unearths a trove of bones of those who had lived on the land before the Weedites: Native Americans and prehistoric animals. While the tornado damages Weed and disrupts the lives of its white inhabitants, it provides an opportunity for the relatively feckless (at that point) Billie One-Eye, the putative chief of the local Blackfoot tribe. As he protects the bones and dreams of preserving them, he turns into a true chief when he creates a museum that will honor them.
Curva and Billie share the book with a raft of colorful characters. Borrowing from the literary tradition of South American magic realism, Curva Peligrosa begins with a sentence of commentary on the work of Jorge Luis Borges, and then sets out to illustrate it. As in Borges’s fiction, in Curva Peligrosa, “time is an endless repetition [and] fact and fiction [are] easily confused.” The book hopes to show the reader “that the text one [is] reading [is] no more or less real than the life the reader [is] living.” As Kadeem, one of the characters, says to Curva near the end of the novel, “Nothing is what it seems. Carpets fly. Plants give birth to animals. Characters escape from novels. All this is normal.”
The novel is life affirming in the best sense. It celebrates the natural world in all its majesty, splendor, and surprise, and is filled with vivid descriptions of clouds and rivers, sunsets and moonrises, of the turnings and re-turnings of the seasons, of transformation and transfiguration. Curva exults in that world and distills it in her Garden of Eden, a greenhouse with an ever-burbling fountain where birds and butterflies live amid lush greenery.
It is also both frank and casual about human sexuality. The novel treats it as a great gift and a great opportunity, and it suffuses the book as a human activity, one to celebrate, not to be ashamed of. Curva loves sex, as do most of the novel’s characters; in fact, one of Curva’s functions in the book is to liberate the previously uptight and inhibited inhabitants of Weed.
The novel also celebrates female power. Curva exudes a potent aura of sexuality that draws men near and conquers them, but her abilities and capabilities transcend the categories often seen as gender-specific. She can ride broncos, shoot guns, build houses, survive in the wilderness like a man, and cook, sew, make love, and nurture like a woman. After the death of her fraternal twin brother Xavier, Curva writes him a letter from the trail in which she tells him that she has taken on his identity as a charro. In some respects, Curva, though “all woman,” exhibits the best qualities of both genders.
In the novel, time is a central concern. Again and again we are reminded of the way in which the clock and the hourglass seem to rule the lives of the Weedites, but not the lives of Curva or Billie. As in Berumba, Honduras, during its earlier days before progress and industrialists put the place on the map, so in Curva’s world: “They worked, too, but they also played, work and play intermingled. Every moment a lifetime. Time didn’t dominate. People hardly thought of time passing. Nor did they seem to age.” Curva lives determinedly in the present, and is rewarded by learning that she is constrained neither by time nor by distance. The dead visit her, as do fictional characters of her imagination, both achieving a corporal identity that goes beyond that imagination.
Eventually, Curva’s idealism, her desire to keep Weed pure, clashes with reality when an American drops out of the sky in his two-seater airplane and begins to buy up mineral rights, threatening Curva’s attempts at creating her own Eden. He isn’t the only stranger that visits. Characters from Luis Cardona’s novel Paraíso also appear, as does Xavier, Curva’s dead brother.
And though this is a novel with a positive message and vibe, it is also shot through with sorrow—Curva’s loss of Xavier; the racism of the Weedites toward the Blackfoot; the gradual loss of the native ways of living on the earth; the agricultural heritage of the Canadian plains giving way to the lust for money and the quest for oil.
Curva Peligrosa attempts to bridge North and South America, Natives and whites, Americans and Canadians, urban and country, nature and technology. It pushes the limits of reality, showing how novel reality is and how real a novel can be in how both depict the everyday.
Transformations take place in the midst of the ordinary. Characters in novels have their own existence. The dead aren’t really dead after all. Ancient bones have the power to speak and give birth. Semen seeps into the soil and surfaces much later in mysterious ways. Indian skeletons and prehistoric dinosaur bones offer their own view on what’s happening through “Bone Songs.”
A love story, Curva Peligrosa reminds us that life is a mystery, inscrutable, as is art, one reflected in the other, an attempt to articulate what is eternally present and true.
Praise for Curva Peligrosa:
“Readers will find themselves spellbound by this novel’s enchanted events. From the opening page when a tornado picks up a purple outhouse and deposits it intact in the middle of the Canadian prairie town of Weed with seductive Curva Peligrosa still inside, magical events occur. A visitor all the way from Mexico, Curva, six feet tall, lusty, mysterious, and irresistibly attractive, enthralls the townspeople. After her arrival, miraculous events envelop her and the town. Curva’s dead twin brother appears. Ancient bones speak and come to life. A geyser bursts spontaneously from the earth, gushing water even in winter. In prose lush and poetic, Lily Iona MacKenzie’s novel explores the inscrutable connection between life and art, fiction and fact. I found myself captivated from first page to last. —Hugh Cook, author of Heron River
“Curva Peligrosa takes you on an entertaining, raucous even bawdy ride.” Nina Schuyler, award-winning author of The Painting and The Translater
Here is the Youtube video of the book launch of Curva Peligrosa that I shared with my husband, who had also released his work Tyrants of the Heart: A Psychoanalytic Study of Mothers and Maternal Images in James Joyce: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q7AwpYIKjcc.
Here is an interview that Kate Raphael from KPFA’s Women’s Magazine had with me about Curva Peligrosa‘s origins. Kate’s interview with me starts about 38 mins into the this tape: 20180108-Mon1300.mp3.
AMAZON REVIEWS OF CURVA:
For the past 6 months, I have been trying to sit down and write reviews of Fling! and Curva Peligrosa.
Despite locking myself behind thick doors and posting “Enter only under punishment of death” signs outside our bathroom door, I continue to be interrupted every sentence or two. Once, I made it through an entire paragraph, and got so excited that I threw the novel up in the air in celebration—an action that resulted in my bookmark moving toward the sink and the book itself toward the shower stall. The water was cold by the time I found my place again.
I eventually read Fling! and then immediately re-read Fling! What a ride! With every page I turned, it seemed as though I was finding parallels between Bubbles and a certain family member of my own. The same thing happened with Feather. It became almost eerie. How did Lily, who likely has never met my mother my siblings ever manage to “nail” their wackiness? Lily’s humor, and her in-depth descriptions of her characters and their surroundings, make reading her novels a riotous ride and I loved every minute. I resented every moment I was torn away from this engaging story.
When I moved on to Curva Peligrosa, I expected some sort of a repeat in the treatment of Lily’s main characters; perhaps a similarity in personality or behavior. It never happened. Each scene was fresh, and so very descriptive that swear I could feel music vibrating through the pages. I could travel miles and miles without once actually being there and still know my way around Weed, Alberta and other far-flung places. I was mesmorized by the lively pace she set.
Now, I own 3 Kindles, an iMac, an iPad, and an iPhone. But the way i truly love to read is whilst submerged in a bathtub up to my eyeballs in bubbles , perfecting an imitation of an alligator. This position can be problematic as it leaves me in danger of drowning whenever I laugh out loud, which happened often while I read about Curva’s journey! I gasped when I read about Curva’s use of bones, and that almost resulted in a mouthful too!
Finding the time to get exclusive tub-time to enjoy Freefall : a Divine Comedy may entail nailing my husband’s shoes to the floor in the living room while his feet are still in them, but I am determined to relish another raucous adventure from the pen of this immensely talented author!
Lily — thanks for sharing your wonderful imagination and insight. You have both satisfied me and left me wanting more!!
I was immediately intrigued by flamboyant Curva, but I confess that I wondered if such a bizarre, magical creature would hold my interest for long. She seemed too far removed from someone I could relate to. Reading on I discovered, to my delight, that Curva’s character quickly deepens. I found myself engaged with her and a number of the book’s other protagonists in a very real way.
Stick with this book and you will discover that the characters’ lives (especially Curva’s) reveal important messages about what truly matters. Curva takes the time to follow all of her interests, some of them bawdy. Whether she is studying the behavior of ants, growing spectacular flowers in her green house or turning the conventional rigidities of her neighbors into joyous dancing, she lives with an intensity I found myself wanting to incorporate into my own life. This book is ultimately instructive but Lily Mackenzie’s wildly imaginative, magic realism style makes it anything but a dry lesson plan.
Curva Peligrosa first appears to the reader via a violent tornado that transports her into the town of Weed, Alberta, The vehicle she rides into town in is a her purple outhouse, the color of the outhouse reveals her own personality. She is bombastic, a fighter, unimaginably sexy, and wears .38 pistol on her hip. By the way, she is a super marks woman with the pistol. Goldtoothed, Curva exudes sex, and everywhere she goes roses and other precious flowers pop up in full bloom in the tracks she lays down. She is buxom, as well as curvaceous, but her curves are extremely dangerous. She is also a talented midwife, much in demand, especially after she touches down in the town of Weed. Not only this, but she has a talent for making healing potions from native plants.
In the beginning, she leaves home with her twin brother, with the intent to travel the Old North Trail from the south to the north. The twins find themselves in the mythological town of Berumba, and work for a time with the Pacheco family there. She learns how to make potions from Ernesto Valunzuela Pacheco, the family patriarch. While there, she decides to continue the journey to the end of the trail alone, well, in the company of her horse, her dog, and two parrots. Curva is an excellent rider. She often stops for a few days in towns that are hosting rodeos. Curva disguises herself as a man, and enters and wins the bull riding and bareback horse riding competitions. This is how she earns the dough to continue her trip.
On her trip, she communicates to Xavier through letters she writes to him—writes but never mails the letters. She reveals the back-story through these letters. Through all this, she seems to be searching for an elixir to prolong life, or even to create one that will allow for immortality. She is quite talented
A wild host of characters invade the story, Kadeem, a Trinidadian wizard. A prostitute by the name of Suelita Flores—one of my favorite characters in the book, and the characters are many to pick from
After twenty years she hauls up in the small town of Weed, and immediately changes the town from a small tight knit community into a free-spirited one. This frees some of the women from the boundaries that hold them back. One character even goes so far as to emulate Curva in that she does her gardening in the nude.
Curva uses some of her rodeo winnings to buy a small farm on the outskirts of Weed, and settles in to have sex with any man that catches her eye, except, of course for the villain of the story, a high-flying oilman that goes by the single name, Shirley. The bad man Shirley is out to sign up all the oil rights in the town and surrounding area, which will of course change the outlook of the town and not only the town but of all its citizens. A feud sets in between Curva and Shirley. Although she does find help in the guise of a one-eyes half Indian, half scot, with red hair and blue eye, named Billy One-Eye.
Curva Peligrosa is a work of literary fiction, and the reader will fall in love with all the characters, except for Shirley, boo to him.
Lily McKenzie’s writing is song descriptions like Curva herself exudes love songs as she writes.
This book is a killer, and I highly recommend it to all.
Mexican Curva Peligrosa follows America’s first “superhighway,” the Old North Trail that has seen many hooves, bare feet and moccasins traveling between Southern Mexico and Canada over the past 12,500 years, and after 20 years of dreams and exuberant experiences, she settles in the small town of Weed, Alberta.
Magic follows her, to hovers around her and her mysterious green house, her herbal cures, her skills as a midwife, her sharpshooting, her otherworldly dandelion wine, her lusty appreciation of sex, and her larger-than-life approach to living that astounds and intrigues the residents of her adopted town. They are scared of her but can’t stay away.
Time and reality blur in this well-written and carefully researched novel, in part because the chapters are–in a sense–a series of slices life and mini-stories that are not exactly presented in chronological order. Along the trail, Curva writes letters to her dead brother Xavier who will become a frequent visitor to her spread near Weed. The prostitute and fortune teller Suelita and Billie, the Blackfoot chief from the nearby reservation, are also frequent visitors. Everyone drinks the wine. Lots of it.
And then there’s the man named Shirley from Sweet Grass, Montana who wants to drill for oil throughout the region. Shirley thinks he can tame Curva’s strange ideas, alluring body, and potentially oil-rich land.
Kadeem, the leader of a traveling troupe of acrobats and other performers tells Curva, “Nothing is what it seems. Carpets fly. Plants give birth to animals. Characters escape from novels. All this is normal.” Such things occur as regularly as the rising and setting of the sun and moon throughout the inventive magical realism, addictive plot, and exotic character development of Lily Iona MacKenzie’s “Curva Peligrosa.”
Chances are good that Curva, Sabina (her daughter of unclear origins), Xavier (who dislikes being called dead, much less a corpse), Billie (who talks to old bones), Suelita (who longs for wings), and even Shirley (who thinks material riches are everything) will ultimately escape from from this novel. If so, they will visit you during storms, fog, and dreams. This is normal.
The book is quirky beyond imagination, starting with a young woman who travels from Mexico to Calgary on her own by horse in the 1940’s; the tornado that opens the town site to history beyond time; Curva’s mysterious pregnancy and delivering a 3 year old; the greenhouse that produces giant-sized vegetables and “eggs” 12 months of the year in Alberta!
A thoroughly enjoyable read!
Curva Peligrosa is a magical free-spirit who embraces life to the fullest. She’s traveled the Old North Trail for the past twenty years and when she arrives in Weed, Alberta, the townsfolk are wary at first. All she wants to do is settle down but with gold teeth, sexy curves Mae West would be envious of and a wicked trigger finger, she makes an imposing impression. Yet people are drawn to her (as was I while reading), and the magic that seems to follow her. But when slick oilman Shirley tries to buy all the land rights of the townfolk (there’s oil aplenty supposedly), Curva stands up to him with the help of the same people who once called her an outsider. Will Weed, Alberta ever be the same after Curva Peligrosa?
I loved Fling! and when I heard that MacKenzie had a new release, I was ecstatic! Curva Peligrosa is filled with quirky characters, lyrical narration and a strong message of embracing all that life has to offer. Blending history with the present, MacKenzie weaves an addictive tale. I loved the supernatural parts (who wouldn’t love to make flowers bloom wherever she goes?) and while it’s steeped in fantasy, it’s believable and thus the reader can suspend their belief. The main conflict between the oilman and the small town is a familiar one in Alberta and MacKenzie sheds new light on this political issue.
Free your inhibitions and pick up this book today. You’ll fall in love with the effervescent Curva Peligrosa, just like I did!
Disclaimer: I received an ARC from the author in the hopes I’d review it.
Favorite Character/Quote: Curva. I loved everything about her and soaked up her essence. We all have a little Curva buried deep in us. We just need to unleash her.
My Rating: 5 stars
Discussion questions for Curva:
- Curva’s letters from the trail have a unique function in the novel. How does your understanding of Curva evolve based on these letters? What role do Curva’s letters have in the narrative? How does the Old North Trail educate Curva? What difference is there in the first and third person perspectives?
- Poems (”Bone Songs”) appear between major sections of the narrative. What is their purpose? What dimension do they add to the work?
- Sabina appears mysteriously as Curva’s daughter. How does their relationship shift over time? How would you describe their relationship? How are mother and daughter similar and different? Who is Sabina’s father?
- The Weedites collectively play an important role in Curva Peligrosa. How would you describe what they contribute? Who are your favorite Weedites and why?
- Billie One Eye figures significantly in the novel. In what ways is he an important character and why? How does he complement Curva?
- When Billie goes on his vision quest, he hopes to have the sight restored to his one eye. It isn’t, so he believes the quest was a failure. Is he correct? Why or why not?
- Not only is Curva Peligrosa a fiction, but there also are additional fictional worlds within this novel, such as Berumba, created by the imagined novelist Luis Cardona. How do Berumba and its characters interact with Curva Peligrosa’s narrative? How is the novel about storytelling and the ways people get succor and enlightenment from it?
- Bones of various kinds turn up in In what ways do they complicate the story?
- The novel starts out with a tornado, and Curva’s arrival in Weed two years earlier was almost a tornado in itself. What did she introduce to the town? Is she a positive or negative influence there?
- Sabina has important relationships with Billie and Ian. What does each contribute to the girl’s development?
- Curva’s twin brother Xavier is more than a ghostly figure in the narrative. How do you understand his part in the book and his relationship with Curva?
- What are the parallels between Curva and Don Quixote? Is Curva mad? Is Cervantes’ Don Quixote mad? Do Curva and the knight share the same goals? Does Curva have her own Sancho Panza?
- Curva makes it clear from her first meeting with Shirley that he’s a danger to her and what she believes in. How do you understand his presence in the narrative and the nature of Curva’s attraction to him?
- Does the natural world function as a character in Curva? If so, how would you describe its part in the narrative? How do you understand the greenhouse?
- From the beginning, Curva makes known her desire to discover the elixir of life. Is she successful? Has she fulfilled her quest for immortality?
- Curva Peligrosa fits into the magical realism genre, though realism also plays its part. Describe the magical elements in the narrative and how they interact with the more realistic ones? What qualities give Curva Peligrosa a mythic/fairy tale tone?
- Several different worlds intersect in Curva Peligrosa: Berumba, the Blackfoot reservation, Weed before and after Curva’s arrival, the American oil scene, etc. How do you understand the ways in which they relate to each other?
- Curva, who grew up in Mexico, resists living out the kind of traditional female role prevalent then, in Mexico and elsewhere. Is she successful?