‘Viva, Rose!’ - BlueStone Press
October 24, 2017

‘Viva, Rose!’

BSP columnist's vivid adventure novel

Posted

Quick, list every Western adventure story you can think of with a teenage girl as protagonist. There’s “True Grit,” of course, and ... um … Well, despite the shortage of stories, anyone with a brain realizes that teenage girls were there, too, and having adventures the whole time.

From BlueStone Press columnist Susan Krawitz comes a fresh tale of derring-do and survival that young readers will lap up with gusto. “Viva, Rose!” mines the semi-civilized Texas of the Mexican Revolution era for a rich and unexpected tale of a 13-year-old plunged into water that’s over her head.

Rose is the youngest child of a Russian Jewish immigrant family in El Paso, and she’s just beginning to realize the true horror of social expectation. She’s expected to trade in her braids for styled, flowing hair, her trusty boots for calfskin shoes. Her rather anxious mother is starting to expound on the benefits of early marriage, and it all makes Rose’s blood run cold. “A inch-footed, ribbon-bound prison,” she thinks.

Her longing to be mistress of her own fate might be satisfied if her parents were more understanding of her passion and talent for singing, which some of El Paso’s cooler adults are already nurturing. But there’s also a mystery afoot, and a smart 13-year-old facing a family secret is dog-meets-bone anywhere and anytime. Her parents believe that her older brother, Abe, had headed east, to join brother Eli in Brooklyn; only Rose knows that he’d actually gone west to the frontier to become a cowboy. But what, oh what, is he doing in a newspaper photo standing next to the notorious Pancho Villa?

It’s the last straw, and Rose is determined to get word to Abe that he is a louse of a brother and needs to come home right-this-minute. Villa and his crew are not well thought of in respectable El Paso. Missing her brother, determined to take the reins of the situation, Rose braves the rougher part of town to try to send him a stern letter -- and ends up witnessing a gun deal and being spirited off to the outlaw camp herself.

There she meets a colorful and all-too-human cast of characters and is conscripted into the rebel band as a playmate/handmaiden to Villa’s frightfully spoiled niece, who makes the mean girls back home seem downright chill. Rose meets gunslingers and stunt pilots and a crusading journalist, finally finds her brother, and is suddenly facing questions of loyalty, life and death, all the while plotting her escape.

Besides the pages of history in general, Krawitz has drawn inspiration from her own family history; distant relatives lived in El Paso, and Krawitz grew up hearing their stories and seeing the somewhat incongruous serapes and sombreros on her great-aunt’s wall in Bensonhurst. In bringing Rose to vivid life, she renders the inner world of a bright 13-year-old to perfection. The politics of the Mexican revolution, while not ignored, are secondary to the interpersonal politics right there on the ground -- which are complex enough for anyone, but Rose learns to handle them like a boss. It’s all part of the same issue, of course -- how people treat one another -- and if Rose makes it back to El Paso, coping with her parents will be cake by comparison. First, there are plots to employ and fears to face.

Krawitz won the 2015 Sydney Taylor Manuscript Award prior to publication and has been well reviewed by the national literary press. It’s easy to see why, and one realizes just how lucky the BSP is to have her on the roster. Middle-grade readers will relish Rose and her adventures in the outlaw camp, and learn about some lesser-known chapters of history -- and human nature. Grab a copy on Amazon and savor.

Comments

No comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment
Self Service Advertising