Five Wishes, by Mollie Moon (Suka Press LLC, Carlsbad, California, 2017, 346 pages).
Book Review by Dennis Moore
When you enter into freedom, possibility comes to meet you.
- John O’Donohue
March 20, 2017 (San Diego) - Mollie Moon has escaped the cold European winters for a life in Southern California, where she lives with a bossy feline and occasional sand in her shoes, to write this fictional account of a young Latina breaking with family and cultural traditions; Five Wishes.
Moon’s life has been filled with travels throughout Europe, the U.S. and South America, which has given her exposure to many lifestyles and cultures. As a matter of fact, in a phone interview with the author just last night she stated to me that this exposure to the many lifestyles and cultures was her motivation behind writing Five Wishes. This German immigrant is usually at the center of her novels, reflecting her own history and experience.
Five Wishes is the author’s second novel, following upon her novel; Branded by Fate. It is clear to me by reading this second and well-written novel by Moon, that she has a vivid and expressive imagination which bodes well for her future endeavors.
This book by Moon is timely, as it touches on a subject that seems to be in the headlines almost daily, immigration and border crossing. Whatever opinions one might have on other cultures and immigration reform, Moon’s book is bound to strike a nerve and give food for thought.
Five Wishes resonates with me for a variety of reasons. Most notably, due to my once living in Tijuana, Mexico for five years, and making the comparison of Tijuana with that of Comayaguela, Honduras described by Moon in this fascinating and insightful book. I embraced the culture of Tijuana, just as the author has indicated that it was actually her embrace and fascination with different cultures that motivated her in writing this book.
The shantytowns and card board box homes depicted on the cover of this book, is also something that I marveled at while in Tijuana, and became quite familiar with. The humble lifestyles of the Mexican community there is something that I will always remember. For that reason alone, I can fully understand and appreciate Maria Elena and what she and her family had to endure.
Maria Elena grows up in a violent, poverty-stricken barrio in Honduras. Her dream of a better life becomes more realistic when she makes friends with Lolita, who seems to have the right connections. Together, they plan an escape to Los Angeles, but Lolita’s connection is Tio, a drug lord and human trafficker. In spite of her misgivings about Tio, Maria Elena joins Lolita and escapes her futureless life, only to end up in a foreign country – alone, hungry, and scared.
Although Maria Elena and Lolita were from different sides of the track, as different from night and day, they would forge a bond out of necessity and mutual admiration. This is truly a friendship to be envied and cherished. Having met and come together at the tender age of 15, Maria Elena and Lolita would become the sisters that neither one of them had previously, sharing their innermost secrets and aspirations in life. But this sisterhood would ultimately come apart, as a shady and promiscuous side of Lolita would compromise Maria Elena’s principles, and expose them both to the human trafficking aspect of this book.
It is ironic that Moon would pick a “Tio” as a drug lord and human trafficker in her book, for as I discussed with her in our phone interview last night, I was aware of a “Tio” in Tijuana, Mexico that was actually a drug lord – and was known to have kidnapped and killed his victims in a vat of acid. Moon gasped in surprise when I shared this with her, as she stated to me that she picked and named “Tio” off the top of her head. This particular “Tio” in Tijuana has since been captured and serving a lifetime in federal prison. The photo and actual capture of Teodoro Garcia Simental (‘El Teo’) in 2010 is pictured here.
The author unwittingly opened up a brutal chapter in Tijuana crime and drug lore by using “Tio” as the fictional drug lord and human trafficker in her book. It certainly adds to the allure of the book and story. Almost everyone in Southern California and Baja has heard of ‘El Teo’ and are aware of his sordid history.
It is important to note the “Tio” described by Moon in this riveting book, and the one that 15-year-old Maria Elena would unwittingly find herself ensnared with, as the author states: “Tio loved to plot. He was good at it. He plotted the next exodus, as he called it, taking about thirty-five desperate souls by boat to a new life. Most of them wanted to go to Miami or Los Angeles, others to Amsterdam, Hamburg, or London. Tio had connections to cruise ships docking on the US West Coast as well as in Rotterdam, the largest harbor in the Netherlands; Hamburg, Germany; and of course London, England. He was planning four new loads for the remainder of the year, one to each destination, which meant he had to line up a total of 130 people, get them new passports, new identities, have a meeting with each group to prepare them for the new culture, and make promises about lucrative jobs and better lives.” Mind you, two naïve 15-year-old girls, Maria Elena and Lolita, find themselves involved with an unscrupulous character like this!
Five Wishes is full of intrigue, with many twists and turns, worthy of a Hollywood movie. I can actually see noted actor Benicio Del Toro in a starring role in the movie, with Selma Hayak as Maria Elena. Watch out for the movie!
Moon really has a way with words and expressing herself, making the reader feel as if they are actually there in the room or outside in an area being described. That is a technique that bodes well for the author in her future literary pursuits. Some of what she says, and how she says it, seems poetic. She is a master storyteller.
The danger and riskiness, along with the sordid nature of what is described in this story is exemplified in a particular passage, which states: “Angel, these kinds of people are dangerous. That’s human trafficking. These are criminals. They have no respect for human life. You should not get involved with them. You cannot trust them.” Maria Elena’s early desires and aspirations from a little girl, to make something worthwhile of her life, would lead her in this direction. Desperate lives sometimes requires desperate measures!
Maria Elena’s childhood experiences and relationship with her father goes a long way into explaining the desperation in her motives and desires for her life. Moon conveys a deep psychological message in her story – that the reader has to read closely and between the lines. A case in point, is when Elena tells her mother early on that; “Sometimes Pa scares me.” There is something Freudian about that, especially in the context that the author describes it.
Maria Elena’s youthful exuberance and her defiance of her mother’s expectations, would result in her being thrown out in the street with no place to stay, ultimately leading to a pivotal night in her life. That pivotal night coming all at once, would occur when she would be sleeping out on the street and discover the murder of her childhood friend Josefina, and later that same night she would be forcibly tied up and raped.
This is a heartrending story in so many ways, that I found myself feeling such profound sympathy and empathy for Maria Elena, and all because she wanted something better for herself in life.
There is a surprising and poignant ending to this insightful and well-written story that puts the focus on human trafficking in such a way for readers to take the issue more seriously – a book that I highly recommend.
Dennis Moore has been the Associate Editor for the East County Magazine in San Diego and the book review editor for SDWriteway, an online newsletter for writers in San Diego that has partnered with the East County Magazine, as well as a freelance contributor to EURweb based out of Los Angeles. Mr. Moore can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can follow him on Twitter at: @DennisMoore8.