My friend, Chelsea Dyreng, recently published a book called The Cenote. I have been reviewing books from Cedar Fort Publishing for a while, and I always enjoy it. Reviewing a friend’s book is a little different. It is a little intimidating, but also exciting because you know that your review will be read and taken seriously.
Reviewing this book is really cool for other reasons too, mostly because this isn’t the first time I have read it. A year and a half ago, Chelsea asked me if I would read the most current draft of her book. She thought that because of past experiences I had, that my perspective would be particularly valuable. This meant so much to me, and the experience helped us build a friendship, while affirming to me that our trials can become a blessing to ourselves and others if we endure and overcome them well.
I will admit, the first time I read The Cenote, though I loved a lot of things about it, there were many things I did not like. I gave Chelsea very detailed notes, and we had a very open and honest discussion, where I gave parallels from my own life and compared them to how she was portraying her message. I remember telling her very honestly that I thought her book was about 50% there, probably not something most authors would want to hear, but she took it very graciously.
But you want to hear what I think about the book now, so let me tell you…
The Cenote is a really engaging, interesting book that will keep your attention, and you will definitely want to know what happens next. It is a mysterious and tragic book. It is also funny, heart-warming, romantic, sad, frustrating, and sometimes scary. I love books with full ranges of emotion that have unexpected events.
The book takes place in a village in pre-Columbian Mexico. Chelsea did a fabulous job describing the clothing, the landscape, and the work of the village. She certainly knows how to paint a picture with words.
There is a legend surrounding the tragedy and fear throughout the book, and she told it so well, that I sometimes found myself gasping and cringing. From the art on the ancient temple walls to the retelling of the tale itself to a live interaction with the subjects of the legend, I could imagine myself being there, and I wanted to get out. Click To Tweet
In my opinion, a book isn’t successful unless at least some of the characters are likeable and teach us lessons. The first time I read The Cenote, I had issues with both main characters, Lark and Sandpiper. I thought Lark was way too cartoonishly gross, and I thought Sandpiper was completely unlikeable – in fact, more like someone you would hate and never have compassion on. Well, Chelsea gets the Most Improved Award, because Lark was still quirky but less gross, and Sandpiper became a woman with many flaws, who also had a heart, remorse, and motivation to change.
All of the characters had a part to play. I didn’t feel like there were too many characters or any unnecessary ones. However, I thought Grandmother Vine was such a dynamic and wise character, that she should have been in the book more. There was a large portion where she wasn’t in the book at all, and I was wondering where she was.
As I read over my notes of suggestions and concerns I had from my first read through, I noticed that a lot of things I wrote as concerns were still in the book, but they didn’t really bother me the second time due to subtle changes Chelsea made throughout. That was a pleasant discovery for me.
Now, there was one thing that really bothered me throughout the whole book, and that was Sandpiper’s feigned disability (I won’t tell you what). The first time I read the book, I had a concern about it, but the second time I read the book, it bothered me even more. I didn’t see any value to the progression of the plot because of it. I also just didn’t think it was realistic that she never slipped up, she didn’t agonize constantly over it, nobody suspected, and that the person who did find out, didn’t mind. I felt Grandmother Vine would have figured it out easily. There was also a major event in the book where it was pretty obvious the whole thing was a ruse, but nobody questioned or accused her at all, and she went right back to pretending to have the disability even though her reason for doing so was then gone. When she finally did admit it to everyone, they brushed it off like it was no big deal even though she had been deceiving them for about a year. There may have been a smidgen of value added to story because of this, but I felt that value could have easily come from other places. Anyway, it just wasn’t working for me.
There, unfortunately, were also many spelling and grammatical errors in the book, something that always bothers me, though the author wasn’t really responsible for that.
Don’t be alarmed by my constructive criticism. There is good news, and that is, I know what Chelsea’s major purpose was in writing the book, and I know the message she wanted to share. I am happy to report, she succeeded in this way. My biggest problems with the book in my first read dealt with the message, but this time, I clearly saw and felt her messages shine through. You won’t need to do too much digging to find inspiration or life lessons in The Cenote.
I believe many couples would benefit from reading this book together. I find it brilliant that you can take a book largely about dangerous temptation and mysterious deaths, and leave the book thinking not about the evil, but the good, the potential, the beauty that can be found in building and cherishing strong familial and marital relationships.
So no, I don’t think the book is perfect. I also still don’t think that the metaphor perfectly parallels with the real life “cenote,” but really, that is okay. Maybe it doesn’t have to.
What is important is that when reading The Cenote, everyone can draw inspiration, wisdom and hope from this enchanting story. Read it. You won’t regret that you did.
I look forward to reading more from my talented friend.
You can purchase her book here.
*I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
About the book:
Forced to marry a complete stranger, Sandpiper tries to adjust to life in her new village. But the mysterious Cenote, a great pool of water, has bewitched the men of the village, and Sandpiper must know why. This moving story of romance and redemption serves as an allegory with a timely message. Filled with drama and heart, it’s a book you won’t soon forget.
About the author:
Chelsea Bagley Dyreng was born in Jackson Hole, Wyoming and is the daughter of a fireworks salesman and Miss Malibu. She earned her B.A. at Brigham Young University, worked as a librarian, and then moved to North Carolina where she and her husband are currently raising five God-fearing, book-loving, adventure-seeking kids.