Read an excerpt from Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Tasnim Geedi will champion Mexican Gothic on Canada Reads 2023
Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia is a gothic horror novel set in 1950s Mexico. It tells the story of a young woman named Noemí who is called by her cousin to save her from doom in her countryside home, the mysterious and alluring High Place. Noemí doesn't know much about the house, the region or her cousin's mysterious new husband, but she's determined to solve this mystery and save her cousin — whatever it takes.
The Canada Reads debates will take place on March 27-30. This year, we are looking for one book to shift your perspective.
You can read an excerpt from Mexican Gothic below.
Noemí, like any good socialite, shopped at the Palacio de Hierro, painted her lips with Elizabeth Arden lipstick, owned a couple of very fine furs, spoke English with remarkable ease, courtesy of the nuns at the Monserrat — a private school, of course — and was expected to devote her time to the twin pursuits of leisure and husband hunting. Therefore, to her father, any pleasant activity must also involve the acquisition of a spouse. That is, she should never have fun for the sake of having fun, but only as a way to obtain a husband. Which would have been fine and well if Father had actually liked Hugo, but Hugo was a mere junior architect, and Noemí was expected to aspire higher.
"No, although we'll have a talk about that later," he said, leaving Noemí confused.
She had been slow dancing when a servant had tapped her on the shoulder and asked if she'd take a call from Mr. Taboada in the studio, disrupting her entire evening. She had assumed Father had found out she was out with Hugo and meant to rip him from her arms and deliver an admonishment. If that was not his intent, then what was all the fuss about?
LISTEN | Silvia Moreno-Garcia talks to Shelagh Rogers about Mexican Gothic:
"It's nothing bad, is it?" she asked, her tone changing. When she was cross, her voice was higher-pitched, more girlish, rather than the modulated tone she had in recent years perfected.
"I don't know. You can't repeat what I'm about to tell you. Not to your mother, not to your brother, not to any friends, understood?" her father said, staring at her until Noemí nodded.
You must come for me, Noemí. You have to save me. I cannot save myself as much as I wish to, I am bound, threads like iron through my mind and my skin and it's there.
He leaned back in his chair, pressing his hands together in front of his face, and nodded back.
"A few weeks ago I received a letter from your cousin Catalina. In it she made wild statements about her husband. I wrote to Virgil in an attempt to get to the root of the matter.
"Virgil wrote to say that Catalina had been behaving in odd and distressing ways, but he believed she was improving. We wrote back and forth, me insisting that if Catalina was indeed as distressed as she seemed to be, it might be best to bring her to Mexico City to speak to a professional. He countered that it was not necessary."
Noemí took off her other glove and set it on her lap.
"We were at an impasse. I did not think he would budge, but tonight I received a telegram. Here, you can read it."
Her father grabbed the slip of paper on his desk and handed it to Noemí. It was an invitation for her to visit Catalina. The train didn't run every day through their town, but it did run on Mon- days, and a driver would be sent to the station at a certain time to pick her up.
"I want you to go, Noemí. Virgil says she's been asking for you. Besides, I think this is a matter that may be best handled by a woman. It might turn out that this is nothing but exaggerations and marital trouble. It's not as if your cousin hasn't had a tendency toward the melodramatic. It might be a ploy for attention." "In that case, why would Catalina's marital troubles or her melodrama concern us?" she asked, though she didn't think it was fair that her father label Catalina as melodramatic. She'd lost both of her parents at a young age. One could expect a certain amount of turmoil after that.
- Silvia Moreno-Garcia subverts genre expectations with the spooky suspense of her novel Mexican Gothic
"Catalina's letter was very odd. She claimed her husband was poisoning her, she wrote that she'd had visions. I am not saying I am a medical expert, but it was enough to get me asking about good psychiatrists around town."
"Do you have the letter?" "Yes, here it is."
Noemí had a hard time reading the words, much less making sense of the sentences. The handwriting seemed unsteady, sloppy.
. . . he is trying to poison me. This house is sick with rot, stinks of decay, brims with every single evil and cruel sentiment. I have tried to hold on to my wits, to keep this foulness away but I cannot and I find myself losing track of time and thoughts. Please. Please. They are cruel and unkind and they will not let me go. I bar my door but still they come, they whisper at nights and I am so afraid of these restless dead, these ghosts, fleshless things. The snake eating its tail, the foul ground beneath our feet, the false faces and false tongues, the web upon which the spider walks making the strings vibrate. I am Catalina Catalina Taboada. CATALINA. Cata, Cata come out to play. I miss Noemí. I pray I'll see you again. You must come for me, Noemí. You have to save me. I cannot save myself as much as I wish to, I am bound, threads like iron through my mind and my skin and it's there. In the walls. It does not release its hold on me so I must ask you to spring me free, cut it from me, stop them now. For God's sake . . .
Excerpt from Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia ©2020. Published in Canada by Del Ray, an imprint of Penguin Random House. All rights reserved.