The Earthquake Machine

The Earthquake Machine

by Mary Pauline Lowry


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The Earthquake Machine by Mary Pauline Lowry

The Earthquake Machine tells the story of 14 year-old Rhonda. On the outside, everything looks perfect in Rhonda's world but at home Rhonda has to deal with a manipulative father who keeps her mentally ill mother hooked on pharmaceuticals. The only reliable person in Rhonda's life is her family's Mexican yardman, Jesús. But when the INS deports Jesús back to his home state of Oaxaca, Rhonda is left alone with her increasingly painful family situation.

Determined to find her friend Jesús, Rhonda seizes an opportunity to run away during a camping trip with friends. She swims to the Mexican side of the Rio Grande and makes her way to the border town of Boquillas, Mexico. There a peyote-addled bartender convinces her she won't be safe traveling alone into the country's interior. So with the bartender's help, Rhonda cuts her hair and assumes the identity of a Mexican boy named Angel. She then sets off on a burro across the desert to look for Jesús.

Thus begins a wild adventure that explores the borders between the United States and Mexico, adolescence and adulthood, male and female, English and Spanish, and adult coming-of-age and Young Adult novels.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781456795856
Publisher: AuthorHouse
Publication date: 09/28/2011
Pages: 328
Product dimensions: 11.60(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Mary Pauline Lowry joined a Hotshot Crew of forest firefighters, traveling the American west with a band of 20 men, digging fireline alongside raging forest fires during the day, sleeping in the ash at night.

Working a night shift on the 20,000 acre Laid Low fire in the mountains of the Angeles National Forest, Mary looked at the fire moving over the mountains like lava, at the city of Los Angeles far below illuminated with the light of a million streetlamps. She looked around her at the strong, sweaty, beautiful, ash-covered men working beside her. And she decided then that she would write a book about these Gods of Fire.

Laid off with the rest of her crew after the end of her first fire season, she went to Costa Rica, river rafting through the rainforest outside of La Fortuna, sea kayaking in the Pacific Ocean outside of Montezuma, and diving off of waterfalls until the money ran out and she returned home to Austin to work at her local indie bookstore.

After her second fire season, she finished her first novel, The Gods of Fire. Mary threw her tent in her car and headed for southwest Colorado. She rented a basement room at the Desert Rose Horse Ranch. Before dawn she wrote her second novel, The Earthquake Machine. During the day she did trim carpentry, framed houses, and built fences with a giant, bearded Viking of a man named David who taught her to be a carpenter.

Next Mary found work at a domestic violence shelter, helping the women and children she came to think of as “the forgotten ones.” Fleeing violent men had left these women homeless and there were rarely enough resources to get them truly back on their feet. Mary did what she could for the women and children, cried every time she finished a shift, and spent her days off work polishing The Earthquake Machine, sending The Gods of Fire to agents and editors in faraway New York City, and running on mountain trails.

When she moved back to Austin, she wrote during the day and worked the night shift on the National Domestic Violence Hotline where she helped over 25,000 survivors of domestic violence seek safe shelter and a better life.

The Gods of Fire didn’t sell. So Mary walked onto a plane and flew back to Los Angeles for the first time since that Laid Low Fire. But this time she went straight to Hollywood where she convinced Bill Mechanic (producer of films such as Fight Club, Braveheart, The Titanic, and Coraline) t

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The Earthquake Machine 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
BookReaperCS More than 1 year ago
This book, let me start off by saying is one that will leave a lasting impact on you. I know when I finished this book and walked away from it, all I could think about was this book. When I fist saw this book, the over fascinated me. I thought in its own special way it was kind of trippy. I know it may sound weird but it's a good kid of trippiness. Rhonda is the type of girl who is willing to risk anything to achieve what she sets her mind to. She is also crazy in the way she approached finding Jesus. However, a person would do crazy things to get whatever they have their mind set to done. This book is not all excitement and it will bring some tears to you. So make sure that yuo have those tissues at hand. Overall this book is one that tell the sexual coming of age for a teenage girl. This one book is one that I probably won't forget in a while. I give this book 4 souls!
bolgai More than 1 year ago
I have really mixed feelings about this book. On one hand I loved it. It is an interesting coming-of-age tale that is well-written, has sympathetic characters, and is honest and unapologetic in its portrayal of life and people. I enjoyed the author's ability to create the two startlingly different worlds of Mexico and the United States. I appreciated Rhonda figuring things out gradually, making mistakes and only after a time realizing where and how she erred or failed to see a more logical course of action. I liked that Rhonda's search for Jesús and her crossing the Rio Grande played both literal and metaphorical roles in the shaping of her identity. I was glad to see that the author detailed events that were significant for the story and glossed over the parts that didn't have any important developments or where Rhonda was too single-minded in her purpose to really pay attention to her surroundings. Even the predictability of the ending didn't spoil the experience for me and I smiled through much of the last chapter. Sounds pretty perfect, right? Not quite, and it took me a while to figure out what it was exactly that was bothering me. Finally I decided that everything being about sex at the end of the day combined with the fact that the protagonist is only 14 years old rubbed me the wrong way. May be I'm naive and had a more sheltered adolescence than I realized, maybe that's how it is for a lot of teenagers, especially those who don't grow up in happy families and look for the affection and warmth of a loving relationship in all the wrong places, but the lascivious comments, the boldness of advances, the graphic descriptions of encounters made me uncomfortable. Rhonda is only 14 through most of the book, turning 15 towards the end, and yet the adults around her act as if she is one of them and even her own thoughts and actions seemed at times more fitting for an older young woman. Then again, none of the events rang false, none were hard to believe in the context of the novel, so my discomfort is not due to the author's inability to convince me but rather in her ability to convince me all too well. I would recommend this novel to any reader who enjoys books about growing up, adventure and serious soul-searching. Just bear in mind, there are adult scenes and some pretty uncomfortable subjects.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Rhonda has a tough life. He father owns a big pharmacy and brings home drugs to keep her mother mellow. He only friend is Jesus, the Mexican gardener. When he paints the trees, the homeowners association rallies together and calls INS and has him deported. This along with other things sets Rhonda’s mom off. Her father doesn’t help matters when he challenges her to do the right thing for Rhonda. Rhonda is asked on a father/daughter vacation with her friends. Other stuff happens on the camping trip, which makes her feel hurt and alone. She decides to cross the Rio Grande and find Jesus. She believes that if she finds her Jesus, then everything will be put right. The story follows her as she looses everything, decides to reinvent herself, and meets a variety of people that help her on her way. These different encounters and events help her to fill the dark hole in her and help her to mature. I don’t want to go too much into the story and give away what happens. I liked this book. I admit that it was a little hard to get into. But after the first fifty pages, I started getting sucked into Rhonda/Angels adventure. It is a heart-breaking journey that she goes on. There is everything from starvation, drug use, robbery, and rage amount a few things that happen. I felt so bad for Rhonda and came to accept her ask Angel. I loved the ending. This poor girl that had so much happen to her but she uses it to grow into a strong young woman. This is a must read book. I admit that I’m not one that usually picks up stories like this. Step out of your comfort zone and read this book! I received a free copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.
tamsparks More than 1 year ago
Filled with beautiful writing, stunning imagery, and a story you can get lost in, Lowry’s debut is an unusual but powerful story of one girl’s journey of self-discovery and self-acceptance. Rhonda is a fourteen-year-old whose home life is less than happy. Her father owns a pharmacy and is a workaholic, and brings “medicine” home to his wife to keep her subdued. Her mother, Louise May, is depressed and lethargic from the pills she is being forced to take. Rhonda’s only happy moments are spent secretly spending time in the evening with Jésus, the Mexican gardener who lives on the property. Jésus is kind and honest with Rhonda, and teaches her Spanish while he describes the life he left behind in Mexico, carving fantastical animals out of wood. But when Jésus is suddenly deported back to Mexico, Rhonda’s life starts to come unhinged. In a terrible turn of events, Louise May loses the battle to keep her sanity and commits suicide. When school friends invite Rhonda along on a river trip on the Rio Grande, she goes along, hoping to forget about the horror of losing her mother. But an illicit encounter one night in camp with Mansk the tour guide propels Rhonda to run away. And so begins her journey. Afraid that she may be crazy like her mother, Rhonda decides to run away from the group, hike to Mexico and find Jésus. In a beautifully lyrical passage, she swims across the Rio Grande to the Mexican side, wanders naked through the desert, and finally comes to a small village where she finds help in the form of a bartender named Juan Diego. He helps her on her way by cutting off her hair, giving her clothing and procuring a donkey to ride for the rest of her journey to find Jésus. During the trek to locate Jésus, Rhonda runs into several groups of dangerous but colorful characters, each one acting as a catalyst that propels her forward on her journey. When she finally gets to her destination, she settles in with Jésus and his mother and learns how to paint alibrijes, the colorful wooden animals that Jésus described to Rhonda back home. She also befriends a miserable old American woman named Genevieve who plays a large part in explaining the title of the book (which I won’t give away here). But the idyllic life in Mexico is short-lived, and tragedy for Rhonda and her friends is just around the corner. Lowry brings everything full circle as Rhonda is forced to make some tough decisions about who she really wants to be. Burgeoning sexuality plays an important part in the story, although the sexual passages in the book have been criticized by some reviewers. But in my opinion, these scenes enhance the book and are in keeping with the theme of growing up. Rhonda, who doesn’t know the word “orgasm,” refers to her sexuality as a moth, and near the end of the story when Rhonda meets up with Mansk again, he calls her a moth with “…a darker beauty than butterfly beauty.” One of the funnier scenes takes place when Rhonda introduces the old woman Genevieve to “the earthquake machine,” and you’re just going to have to read the book if you want to know what I’m talking about. In dreamy prose, The Earthquake Machine takes us on Rhonda's adventure from innocence to maturity and back again. Lowry has a knack for storytelling, which is evident by how lost in the story I found myself. Rhonda’s journey is an unusual one, but her emotions represent those of every adolescent girl. Many thanks to the author for providing a review copy.
LetsBookIt More than 1 year ago
As life gets more and more intolerable, Rhonda is left with the feeling there are only two options left - to kill herself or to escape to Mexico and find Jesus. Her choice is to head out on her own and try to find a man named Jesus in Oaxaca State, Mexico. Masquerading as a Mexican boy named Angel, Rhonda crosses Mexico alone in a sort of vision quest. This book reminded me somewhat of Judy Blume's Are You there God, it's Me Margaret in that there is a lot of very frank discussion about little girls changing into young women; sexual growth and exploration; and some rather uncomfortable child abuse disguised as exploration. These things together caused some rather uncomfortable moments for me as a reader. Mary Lowry is a wonderful writer. Her story flows well and Rhonda reads as a very real fourteen-year old. The circumstances she finds herself in are unbelievable and, on some level, humorous. The ending of the story was supremely satisfying. I was thrilled that it didn't end the way I thought it would - and that is all I will say about that. I am of two minds about The Earthquake Machine. One the one mind - it is a well written novel with well developed characters and an earthy, honest feel. On the other mind - much of the content made me uncomfortable. If you are less of a prude than I am, you might really enjoy Ms. Lowry's book.
dayzd89 More than 1 year ago
I LOVED this book. I was so happy to finally read another book with Hispanic culture in it! I was raised Hispanic even though I was born here; my parents were born in Chile. We've had many Mexican friends, and it was so refreshing and nice to read about their beautiful culture. I was entranced by this book from the first page. I knew it was going to be different when I read the description, and my expectations were not only met but surpassed. Mary hits on so many labels and categories we take for granted in this book. Through Rhonda, the main character, she explores the tightly knit connections between sexism, racism, and classism. She explores gender and gender roles, the patriarchal institution of religion, and how a woman can gain power if she finds her inner voice. In the beginning of the novel, Rhonda is a young fourteen year old, but by the end of the novel she has gone through so many experiences and hardships that it would be foolish to call her a mere girl. She has matured from a doubting girl who is unsure of herself and afraid of the world to a mature person, one who has stepped between that shadowy line of young girl and young woman. I was very pleased and surprised by the feminist tone of this novel. In this day and age, feminism is still under attack even though sexism continues to hurt women everywhere. One of the things I really admired about this novel was how Mary shows that life can be good or bad on either side of the border, especially for women. Rhonda's father is an excellent example of how a man can suppress a woman, change her drastically to a shell of a person. At the same time, though, Rhonda felt the love and protection of Jesus, who she saw as a brother. I also commend Mary for her on point Spanish skills! I don't remember seeing any Spanish mistakes, and the dialogue felt natural and real. I could tell she put a lot of effort in making the Spanish just right. I feel so lucky to have won this book. I hope it gains more attention and receives the popularity it so rightly deserves. It was an amazing, heart breaking journey that made me laugh and smile. It's the type of book that changes you after you've read the last page.
BookSakeBlogspot More than 1 year ago
I was blown away by this book. The description and cover do it absolutely no justice whatsoever. At first, I thought it sounded like a random mash of events that couldn’t possibly be woven into a story – at least not one that would affect me the way this has. Boy, was I wrong… I found myself, not reading into all hours of the night, but stopping often to digest what I had just read. I guess I didn’t expect the content to be so edgy with such a young main character, so it caught me a little off guard. The author really did a fantastic job with Rhonda’s character in general – I was really able to get inside her head and experience what she was going through, sometimes more than I might have liked. I also enjoyed that the author had the guts to cover so many controversial and private topics in one book. It’s honestly a lot to take in, but Ms. Lowry really exceeded my expectations with The Earthquake Machine and I thoroughly enjoyed every page of it. On a side note, I was so interested in the woman behind this book that I even went to the author’s website to find out more about her (I never do that) and was quite taken with her blog post about “Alien She” by Bikini Kill. Come on now, how much cooler can this lady get? It’s really no wonder why I liked her book so much. Everyone should read it. Reviewed by Brittany for Book Sake.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Earthquake Machine by Mary Pauline Lowry tells the story of Rhonda, a girl who’s haunted by the discord in her seemingly perfect upper-class family and terrified by the pressures she faces as a tween on the cusp of womanhood. Rhonda’s closest and best friend is the family gardener, a Mexican immigrant named Jesús; her world is turned upside down when Jesús is deported and the chaos in Rhonda’s family reaches a breaking point. Rhonda runs away from home to search for Jesús and to try to escape a future that seems all but inevitable: becoming a caged bird like her mother and the other upper-class women she knows. Rhonda’s fantastic journey takes her across the border and deep into the heart of Mexico, where she encounters women at all ages and stages who are, like her, struggling to make their way in a world that privileges men. The Earthquake Machine chronicles the daring adventures and tragic misfortunes that catalyze Rhonda’s coming of age as a strong young woman who refuses to conform to society’s expectations for her. The Earthquake Machine is a smart, dark, fanciful take on the female Bildungsroman. Lowry’s descriptions of the train wreck of Rhonda’s family and the hardships she faces on the run are unflinching, yet they aren’t meant to present tragic scenes that turn readers into rubberneckers ogling a bloody wreck. Instead, Lowry asks the reader to consider hard questions about sex, gender, and identity, and she posits answers to those questions by showing how Rhonda comes of age as a girl who is comfortable in her own skin and confident in her ability to survive in a world that’s particularly hard on women and girls. What’s more, Lowry’s lush prose, surprising plot twists, and deft literary style contain delightful elements of magical realism that temper the tragedies in The Earthquake Machine and bring warmth and humor to the story. It’s no wonder that Huffington Post reviewer James Moore declares, “The Earthquake Machine moves Lowry into an elite group of young female writers.” Mary Pauline Lowry’s The Earthquake Machine is a wild ride that you won’t want to get off until you finish it. The Earthquake Machine will rock your world!