In a fictitious town in Mexico, the body of a woman known as the Witch is found in a filthy irrigation ditch. She was the daughter of another Witch, and both women were thought to possess extraordinary powers, for good and evil, which the town's people feared. Everyone wants to know who killed the Witch and why? Who would dare to kill someone who had powers that could reach beyond the grave? The inhabitants had always presumed the two women had amassed gold and treasures that were hidden in their wretched estate, and that was the motive for the killing. This is a town physically cut off from other towns and cities, with fragmentary communication. Any type of news is communicated in a disjointed way and becomes mired in a whirling mess fomented by rumor layered with suspicion and superstition.
The town is symbolically and factually walled off from the outside world. It is a wreck of a place, with no assets that would pull in outsiders. who would give another view of life, and offer ways to change people's wretched lives. If there had ever been hope for something better, it vanished long ago. The title of Carlo Levi's memoir, Christ Stopped at Eboli, is emblematic of Fernanda Melchor's depiction of this town. During World War II, Carlo Levi was sent to internal exile in Italy, to a town so devoid of ethics, morality, civilization and Christianity, that people said Christ stopped outside the walls of the town.
The novel is a masterpiece with literary elements that are reminiscent of folk tales, magical realism and satire which Fernanda Melchor brilliantly synthesizes. An artist in control of her own unique point of view she has written a work that is timeless and universal. It can also be read as a tale of horror surpassing any modern work, primarily because it personifies the quotation cited at the beginning of the novel: “Some of the events described here are real. All of the characters are invented," from The Dead Girls by Jorge Ibargüengoitia. Reality writ large is the power of fiction and great writers have the ability to see, sense and say what most of us do not see. In this relatively short novel, only 210 pages, Fernanda Melchor has created in language, plot and characterizations a cautionary universal tale that is a mirror to our own time, and is in league with the works of great classical satirists of the past, François Rabelais, Tobias Smollett and Jonathan Swift, who still have the power to jolt and shock us with their insights and humor. In the midst of darkness, there is a semblance of light in this novel, especially in the writer's flair for portraying characters who see irony in the grotesque. She has them speak with humor and beauty about their inescapable existence and that offers some type of hope.
The novel originally was written in Spanish and is available in e-media: Temporada de huracanes.