Lily Iona MacKenzie's Blog for Writers & Readers


How do opposites enlarge our personalities?

The publishing anniversary of my novel, Curva Peligrosa arrives in September, so the narrative is very much on my mind these days. The book’s title, Curva Peligrosa, names its central female character, but a number of peripheral characters also have a big role. One is Billie One Eye, a member of Alberta’s Blackfoot tribe who becomes the tribal chief.

One of Curva’s major characteristics is her adventuresome spirit and willingness to try new things. In the narrative, she spends 20 years on The Old North Trail. Malcolm Campbell, a reviewer of the novel, points out that Curva travels “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.”

These early travelers were largely indigenous people, following a passageway that extends from the Canadian Arctic down to the deserts of Mexico and beyond. It runs along the base of the Rocky Mountains and the Continental Divide, following a kind of shoreline between the mountains and the plains for over three thousand miles. The Blackfoot call the trail “The Backbone of the World.”

In contrast, though at fifteen Billie leaves the reservation where he grew up, he spends another fifteen years learning carpentry and native art from a mentor, a member of a West Coast Squamish tribe. However, Billie does return to his roots on the Alberta Blackfoot reservation and plants them even deeper. A one-woman man, when he and Curva eventually begin a relationship, it’s Curva that has the wandering eye and desire to bed other men, not Billie. He’s a foil for her in the sense that he’s much more grounded and practical. Don Quixote has a role in this novel as a character that Curva emulates and admires. There’s a parallel between Curva/Billie and Don Quixote/Sancho. Both perspectives are necessary and complement the other.

Billie starts out feeling overwhelmed by Curva and the energy she projects. But over time, he gains his own individual strength. By the novel’s conclusion, they are equals. And, in Alberta, both share an outsider’s perspective: Curva’s Mexican origins parallel Billie’s indigenous ones. Not being part of the dominant culture frees them in certain ways to be even more themselves, turning the more negative aspect of being an outsider on its head.

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