Whoa. Whoa. This book was a TRIP. Why I was compelled to read a gothic novel right before Christmas is beyond me, but hey, I have no regrets. Give me spooky vibes year round.
Mexican Gothic was a thrill to read… talk about an incredibly moody, macabre story. I actually had to journal my thoughts down as I read. There were so many of them, most of which being WTF. I certainly recommend this book to readers who love horror, or those who enjoy reading some mind-bending thrillers. While I don’t read a ton of horror, I do love me some dark, supernatural thrillers, and that’s what drew me in to this novel. Plus the Mexican setting? Yes please. Alright, let’s get into the details.
The story is set in Mexico, circa 1950s, and follows Noemi, a Mexico City socialite who loves to live life, go to parties, and dress fabulously. Her father sends her to visit her married cousin, Catalina, after he receives a bizarre HELP ME message from her. Agreeing to visit on behalf of her father, Noemi finds herself at High Place, a dilapidated manor where her cousin and in-laws live. The eerie mansion sits outside of the rural mining town of El Triunfo, where the Doyles previously operated a silver mine. Catalina acts very strange, and Noemi spends her days trying to figure out what is wrong with her and why the creepy family seems to keep her locked away in a room.
The setting was incredible: the rundown Victorian house (complete with cemetery) gave me big Haunted Mansion meets Monster House meets Stranger Things vibes. I have to say, I found the ending of the story entirely unexpected. Obviously, something was amiss with the Doyles… I just couldn’t figure out what it was for the life of me. When Howard started talking about eugenics during Noemi’s arrival dinner, I knew there was something wrong wrong with all of them. A few of my speculations included they were all incestuous vampires that needed fresh blood to sustain them, luring first Catalina then Noemi out to High Place; or indeed something like Monster House where the house itself was part of the problem. My theories continued when I picked up on the hints from the ouroboros image scattered throughout the house… the Doyles were infinite and they lived forever. The ouroboros is one of my favorite symbols, and I loved to see it here.
What really happened was SO much creepier than my idea of vampires. Never in my wildest speculations did I think the fungi had something to do with it… I knew the house was moldy, and there was a lot of mushroom talk, but I just figured those details contributed to the decrepit description of the house. Did anyone else think this whole fungi thing was so cool? Like, what do you think of when you’re hiking and you see some freaky little mushrooms on the trail… often times it’s a weird mixture of awe and eww, right? That’s exactly how I felt while reading this novel… my skin itched but I loved it. I thought Silvia Moreno-Garcia did an amazing job of keeping the book disturbing without giving away too much, and I thoroughly enjoyed this thrilling aspect. When Howard sent that nasty black shit down Noemi’s throat… BRUH. I lost my shit. I truly didn’t know how Noemi would escape and break Howard’s cursed cycle.
Character time! Noemi was a baddie, and I really understood her on a personal level. I loved how she floated from idea to idea, not knowing what it was that she wanted to do with her life, and she was ok with that. She was brave and wasn’t afraid to get to the bottom of the mystery of the Doyles. I thought she offered such a fresh, feminist perspective in a time when women were expected to just get married and pump out babies. Francis was a sweetheart, even if he was part of the family and went along with Howard and Virgil’s sadistic plan for Catalina and Noemi. He was terrified that Howard would control him, and he really didn’t know how he could escape due to the symbiotic relationship of the fungi. Howard was a sick fuck… he ingested the fungus to become this eternal being, then continually had incestuous relationships with his female family members to morph into the same version of the same being for hundreds of years… Bleh! And Virgil gave me terrible vibes as well, though I didn’t expect him to work towards his own agenda, not Howard’s. Altogether, they were like a Victorian version of a Black Mirror family: copious amounts of ick combined with skin-crawling disturbia, and a big scoop of WTF on top.
Overall, I loved this macabre, disturbing novel. It was so gothic and terrifying, and I thought the entire plot twist with the fungi was very unique. The story is coming to Hulu, and I can’t wait to see some of the visuals they come up with… because what I pictured in my mind was INSANE and if they come anywhere close to that, this show will be amazing.