Eileen Clemens Granfors, devotes herself full time to writing after a rewarding career as a high school teacher of English. Some Rivers End on the Day of the Dead is the first book in a trilogy. A prequel, The Pinata-Maker's Daughter and a sequel, So You, Solimar, are in the works.
Marisol and her mother flee Tijuana, Mexico, in fear of their lives after her father is murdered in front of their home. They leave her two younger brothers behind with her Abuela, grandmother. Meeting her father's younger brother, Tomaso, in Santa Dorena, north of Los Angeles, California, she is dismayed to find that her new home is beneath an oak tree in a river bed. Both she and her mother have passports. Marisol's father was an American. But these facts must be kept secret to protect them. The musings and heartache that Marisol feels about her plight are revealed in simple, spare, elegant words.
We have changed our names in America. I am Marisol DeLira at school. No Lima for Papa, and when I dropped even his name, I dropped a chunk of my heart to leave back on the street with his blood and broken skull.
Her mother finds employment as a nanny and housekeeper for a nearby wealthy family stashing money in a can beneath the tree roots saving for a small place of their own. Marisol attends high school finding solace in the classroom of Mrs. Kovacs, her English teacher. Adapting to the students and life in this school, so different from her Catholic school in Mexico, is not easy. Mrs. K helps her with the equally challenging use of the English language. Marisol begins to keep a list of idioms as well as expanding her love of reading. It is during a group project that Mrs. K pairs her with Sylvan, who will become her best friend.
Mrs. Kovacs put us together to draw a map of the hurdles George and Lennie faced to try to reach their dream. The homework was to draw a map of our own hurdles, which I faked because who would believe a hurdle is making sure I have a shower each morning and that another hurdle is hiding so a drug gang can't find me, making me live under an oak tree? Who would believe that my father was murdered for telling the truth?
Her most difficult challenge comes in the form of a fire which sweeps through the valley destroying homes and their school separating her from her Mother, Uncle, and her friend Sylvan and her hippy grandmother. It is when she is thrust into staying with Coach Sneed, his family and an ornery male classmate that her views shift as does her need to get home for the Day of the Dead celebration.
Granfors has spun a story of sincere longing for life to be the way it was and the normal anguish felt by teens finding their way. The thoughts of Marisol as she weighs decisions rings true. Life in her town of Tijuana, Mexico as the celebration of the Day of the Dead approaches is woven into the plot as cleverly as is a twist of the facts believed to be true. Flawed and strong characters shape Marisol's world through dialogue and events that reveal their genuine nature. As her father's words of a river running through all of us guide Marisol so too does Eileen Clemens Granfors' tale steer us toward universal truths that should not be forgotten.
Some Rivers End on the Day of the Dead gives excellent insight into Mexican culture, of a teen seeking to fit into an unfamiliar life and how people, known and new, in our lives can influence us in ways unexpected but necessary to realize our full potential. Granfors has included a Reading Guide at the book's end making this perfect for a group read.