Our past is who we are, even when it’s forgotten.
In Gateway to the Moon, award-winning novelist Mary Morris draws a map straight from the terror of the Spanish Inquisition to stagnant lives in a dirt-poor New Mexico village, half a millennium later.
In 1492, Luis de Torre flees Spain to avoid torture and imprisonment at the hands of fanatical priests. Abandoning his family, he signs on as the personal interpreter of Christopher Columbus, who is sailing west in search of another route to the riches of the Indies. The mission fails, but Luis becomes the first of his bloodline to set foot in the New World. The book follows Luis’ descendants over the centuries as oppression propels them out of Spain, through Mexico and finally north to the remote town of Entrada de la Luna.
Five hundred years after Luis’ journey, the mostly Spanish-Catholic down-and-out town is unremarkable, yet it has its quirks. Why do the families light candles on Friday night? Why doesn’t anyone eat pork? Fifteen-year-old Miguel Torres, who shares a trailer with his mother, just knows that’s the way it’s always been. Miguel, a juvenile-detention alum, likes to spend his nights on a hill at the old cemetery, staring up at the sky through a homemade telescope. Miguel has little interest in the earthbound, and it’s no wonder. His mother is an exhausted woman, old before her time, and his father is an alcoholic who spray-paints pictures on cars for money. Miguel dreams of two things: discovering new moons and escaping his dying village. His hero is his Aunt Elena, a talented dancer who fled the desert for New York when she was 17.
But Aunt Elena harbors a dark, violent secret. And when tragic circumstances force her to return, both her past and that of the town’s is laid bare, and lives—especially Miguel’s—will never be the same.
Morris writes with a relaxed eloquence, shifting easily through characters. Gateway to the Moon is an entertaining, thoughtful read that raises a relevant question: Appearances aside, just how different are we?