Some books last, some books are forgettable, and some books make you obsessed. Hurricane Season (org: Temporada de Huracanes) haunted my sleep and got me thinking a lot about it wherever I go. There is something about this book that keeps me coming back, checking the words and details as if I wanted to make sure that I definitely had read those words correctly. It takes a full strength in me to read this book, colored by graphic details of (sexual) violence and obscene words that mainly refer to the characters’ ableism, homophobia, misogyny, and transphobia. After I finished the first three chapters, I needed a break for two days because I was quite dumbfounded by the gruesome tale of a women-hating society.
La Matosa, the village where the story unfolds, is a claustrophobic place. I will try my best to summarize the novel in less than 150 words. The book tells the story of a murdered witch whose life is only visible and hearable through tales, whispers, rumors, and gossips. She is a witch because she dresses all-black and has bits of knowledge about alternative herbal medicines. Her killing opens layers of violence upon violence not only to her, but to La Matosa as a whole, or womxn and the femininity of La Matosa. Hurricane Season has seven chapters, and each of them has its own narrator, that is the central character in the murder. Each chapter also uses interchangeable degrees of pronouns.
Hurricane Season might be the more grotesque, literary, version of Bjork’s Bachelorette. The Icelandic singer starts the song with a lung-depth breath of “I’m a fountain of blood, in the shape of a girl.” Melcher doesn’t waste any time to open the book with such a hook that details the death of the witch of La Matosa. All in black clothes, the body’s bloating because of the irrigation canal where the killers dump the witch’s body – but her corpse smiles. I remember I had to lie down for a solid 10 minutes just to process the introduction.
The rest of the story doesn’t get any better, albeit it illuminates us who the killer(s) might be and why they kill her. We will know the details of the people of La Matosa and the witch from these narrators: Yesenia, Munra, Norma, Brando, and later on, the gravedigger. Through them, we also understand Luismi, the central character in the killing. Yesenia hates Luismi, who is her cousin, to the point she wants to throw him in jail, if not kill him. Their grandmother loves Luismi a bit more, for she loves men in the family – who bears the family name and will pass it. She loves Luismi and other men in the family so much, she doesn’t care that the men are good for nothing. Luismi’s father is a failed and useless busker and a convicted criminal who lives on sucking his mother’s hardwork. Luismi himself is a local hopeless drug-addict and partygoer.
Munra, Luismi’s stepfather, is a disabled man who often drives the boys of La Matosa to the nearest city, Villagarbosa (the pseudonym for Veracruz, a capital city of the state Veracruz in Mexico). He happens to have a really outstanding oral sex, according to Luismi’s mother, Chabela – who is a prostitute. Norma is a runaway from her stepfather who raped her and made her pregnant. She then stays with Chabela and Munra, falling in love with Luismi. Luismi, in the story, albeit his complicated relationship with the witch, sounds so platonically in love with her as well. Only then we learn that Norma is a 13-year-old, pregnant because her stepdad raped her and just had an abortion after being forced by Chabela. Chabela pushes the witch to give Norma’s the abortion herb. The witch insists that Norma should stay at her place so she can take care of her, Chabela refuses and ignores the witch’s plea. Norma, on the other hand, is scared and believes the witch more. The witch is right, Norma suffers from horrible internal bleeding that Luismi and Munra have to run her to the hospital. But as soon as Luismi and Munra find out that Norma is an underage, Munra convinces Luismi to leave her, which Luismi initially refuses. Luismi only agrees because he has something else in his head.
However, Norma could be in jail. In Mexico, abortion is only legal in two out of 32 states. Abortion, constitutionally, is only permissible when it is a case of rape, the negligence of mothers, and if the mother’s lives are in danger following the pregnancy. Veracruz, through the Supreme Court, just rejects the state’s bid to decriminalize abortion. The decision is just out, two hours before I wrote this sentence. And like a sensible girl she is, Norma dreams to run away from the hospital and comes home. Norma is alienated from her own “sex that [she] no longer recognized as her own” (p.93).
I think no one in the book is more hateful than Brando, Luismi’s porn-addict friend who tries his best to suppress his sexuality. Brando is never sure whether he wants to kill Luismi or fuck him. Only in the last sentence of his chapter that I can grow a bit of sympathy for him. And as I believe, it is not ‘hate-fucking’ that drives his feeling towards Luismi, but love. A very problematic one. Brando, as a matter of fact, is the most forceful voice in the book. He is so hateful, and he has no regards for womxn, and only uses womxn as a vessel for his unresolved issues and suppressed sexuality. He hates the anatomy of a pussy – which is understandable if you think about it. So hateful, he has a conflicted feeling about beating up of a girl in the back of a van for peeing when they have sex. Yet, he is a bit thankful to her for that because he cannot possibly cum with womxn. Thankful, because during the sex, his friends watch him over and encourage him to get the girl “cock overdose” (p.162). Yet, he expects a gay mining worker to suck his dick but gets furious when this worker asks him to give a head. He punches the gay man, who also Luismi’s lover. Luismi is the worst-case scenario imaginable for me of internalized homophobia.
I need at least two and a half days to get over Brando’s part. I just can’t with the violence and the hatred.
Sexism is a transforming air. So banal, so ordinary, so violent, but still it is going to drive you insane. It is not without reason why the depiction of violence in this book is so repetitive. Even in one chapter, one act of violence is retold over and over again (like in Yesenia, Norma, and Brando’s part). We understand, again and again, that we fail and hate womxn. And interesting enough, the killing takes the life of a transgender woman. We later find out that the witch is a transgender person who just loves loving and throwing a nice party. Luismi misunderstands that the witch causes Norma’s abortion and pain, therefor Luismi wants to take revenge. That plan finds its home in jealous Brando, who is desperate to run away from La Matosa with Brando – to start somewhere new. Throughout the book, the pronoun of the witch doesn’t change even as the sexist and transphobic Brando realizes that fact; a testimony that transwoman is a woman is a womxn. That also serves as an eerie reminder that patriarchy will betray you if you cling onto it, manifested on a rigid gender order of (heterosexual/heteronormative) family, transphobia, and homophobia. Brando is the exemplary manifestation of that betrayal.
I keep asking myself why this book, a condemnation against violence against womxn but with an unwavering depiction of it. A lot of people on Goodreads (I know GR is the last place you want to see to review books) say they can’t stand the violence. But I’m steadily reading this because my body remembers the grammar of violence against womxn, and its unflinching pictures are just so ubiquitous without any attempts to demean it. Writing this quasi-review/reading experience is even confusing to me because I’m still questioning my fascination; what is so grappling about violence? It is also the way Melcher deploys the concept of witchcraft to open the overdue wounds afflicted on womxn that catches me off guard.
Or, ironically enough, it is the way how serenely the idea of death is told in the last chapter in the book. In the words of my good friend, Kitkut, death becomes a matter of people waiting for their turn to board on a train. And for some womxn, death is as regular as patriarchy. Womxn’s life perseverance becomes a matter of politics of death in the hand of wounded and unhealed men with their patriarchal violence.