By: Laura McNeal
Pub date: September 14th, 2010
Fifteen-year-old Pearl DeWitt and her mother live in Fallbrook, California, where it’s sunny 340 days of the year, and where her uncle owns a grove of 900 avocado trees. Uncle Hoyt hires migrant workers regularly, but Pearl doesn’t pay much attention to them . . . until Amiel. From the moment she sees him, Pearl is drawn to this boy who keeps to himself, fears being caught by la migra, and is mysteriously unable to talk. And after coming across Amiel’s makeshift hut near Agua Prieta Creek, Pearl falls into a precarious friendship—and a forbidden romance.
Then the wildfires strike. Fallbrook—the town of marigolds and palms, blood oranges and sweet limes—is threatened by the Agua Prieta fire, and a mandatory evacuation order is issued. But Pearl knows that Amiel is in the direct path of the fire, with no one to warn him, no way to get out. Slipping away from safety and her family, Pearl moves toward the dark creek, where the smoke has become air, the air smoke.
Laura McNeal has crafted a beautiful and haunting novel full of peril, desperation, and love.
You wouldn't have noticed me before the fire unless you saw that my eyes, like a pair of socks chosen in the dark, don't match. One is blue and the other's brown, a genetic trait called heterochromia that I share with cats, Catahoula hog dogs, and water buffaloes. My uncle Hoyt used to tell me, when I was little, that it meant I could see fairies and peaceful ghosts.
Then I met Amiel, and for six months, it seemed true what he whispered in his damaged voice: Tu eres de dos mundos.
He was wrong , of course. You can only belong to one world at a time.
Now that he's gone, I try to see things when I’m alone. I put one hand over my blue eye, and I look south. With my brown eye I can see all the way to Mexico. I fly over freeways and tile roofs and malls and swimming pools. I cross the Sierra de Juarez mountains and the Sea of Cortez to the place where Amiel was born, and I find the turquoise house with a red door. There are three chairs on the covered patio outside: one for him, one for me, and one for Uncle Hoyt. I tell myself the chairs are empty because we’re not there yet. I watch for as long as I can and when my eye starts to water, I remove my hand.
Tomorrow, I'll look again.
This sounds so good. I'd heard little about it until the other day when I found this short little excerpt. You can visit both Laura and her husband Tom McNeal at their official website.