Reading the Knots
In 1954, as civil war looms over Guatemala, a startling discovery at an archaeological dig triggers a series of events that threaten the lives and well-being of three women.
Meg Fuente, the archaeologist's American wife, is drawn to the camaraderie and idealism of a left-wing political group, but she recognizes that she might be putting herself in danger if the progressive government falls. Patricia, the headstrong daughter of a wealthy coffee planter, is determined to excavate at the Fuentes' dig, but she must keep her labors hidden from her violent, right-wing father. And Noemi, a girl from a poor indigenous town, is able to stave off hunger thanks to her brother's salary as foreman at the dig-but some of the town Elders see the excavations as an insult to their ancestors, a mysterious group who once lived in the valley where the dig is situated.
In a political atmosphere suffused with hatred and fear, a major archaeological find sets forces in motion that lead to shattering losses for the women. To survive, they must forge ties among family and friends and draw strength from centuries-old traditions.
A dramatic, finely-woven tale filled with riveting historical detail, Reading the Knots is set at a pivotal time in Latin American history, when the democratic government of Jacobo Arbenz came to a violent and tragic end..
Reviews of Reading the Knots
The lives of three very different women during the Guatemalan coup d'état of 1954 are brought to life in Susan Garzon's vivid historical novel, Reading the Knots....This is an absorbing story set in a dramatic moment in Guatemalan history...Infused with drama and description, Reading the Knots will appeal to fans of female-driven fiction, set against a backdrop of lesser known places and events. -Blue Ink Review
An engaging novel that digs deep into mid-20th-century Guatemala. Garzon's deliberative prose paints the characters with precision and complexity... It is an immersive story not only of the tension between cultures, but of the roles that women often find themselves trapped in, and the risks they take in order to escape them. -Kirkus Reviews
I was enthralled by this beautifully written story of three women whose lives are touched by tragedy during the political and cultural upheavals of 1950s Guatemala. Garzon's compelling characters and well-crafted descriptions engaged my attention from the start. --Carrie Bedford, author of the Aura Series and Nobilissima: A Novel of Imperial Rome
Reading the Knots is the kind of book I'll read again and again. It paints the lives of three very different young women and deals with love, coming of age, archeology, land and social reforms in Guatemala during the 1950s. Garzon's world is filled with vibrant landscapes and authentic characters. As I got to know each woman, I learned about Guatemala's history, and I experienced pangs of fear, love, loss, and the fire of fighting for one's deepest convictions. The women's enduring friendship is uplifting and warmed my heart. --Maryvonne Fent, author of The 35¢ Dowry.
Reading the Knots: A Novel by Susan Garzon is a mesmerizing historical novel that follows compelling characters set against the backdrop of a turbulent political time in Guatemala....The story has strong political themes and the historical setting comes out beautifully in the well-written commentaries. Reading the Knots explores themes of change, family, political upheaval, and many others while looking at the inner strength of some female characters as they survive changing and challenging times. Deftly written, balanced, and engaging. --Romuald Dzemo for Readers' Favorite (5/5 Stars)
Susan Garzon crafts a jackpot of a novel by bringing together diverse characters in the same plot, therefore bringing into focus cultural tensions that render the already volatile political situation more unstable. The vivid descriptions of the Guatemalan landscapes, as well as the rich characterization, further bolster the novel's readability...Further, for a historical novel, it's fast-paced. Susan Garzon's Reading the Knots: A Novel is not your run of the mill literary-cum-historical fiction, which in itself is a unique genre. It gives a rich insight into a seldom talked about country and makes for absorbing reading. Highly recommended. --Debjani Ghosh for Readers' Favorite (5/5 Stars)
I adored this book from start to finish, because it is one of those non-westernized novels that opens one's eyes to other corners of the world and gives an authentic voice to unique characters. Author Susan Garzon has true compassion for the women she weaves into her conceptually complex and involved storyline, but their presence and attitude also offer education for those of us who sometimes forget to look beyond our own front door. Descriptive and narrative talents are fully on display as Guatemala and its many beauties, tragedies, and complexities are laid out before us, and the plot delivers all of this in a well-organized form that brings a wealth of information forward in a logical and building progression that makes it easier to follow. Overall, Reading the Knots is a highly recommended and accomplished read for fiction fans everywhere to enjoy. --K.C. Finn for Readers' Favorite (5/5 Stars)
The narrative is fast, it is incredibly well-paced and the descriptions are vibrant enough to make you feel like you are right there in Guatemala. I experienced the country, its history, its culture and had the most entertaining time as well. --Rabia Tanveer for Readers' Favorite (5/5 Stars)
Answers to Readers' Questions
1. How do you know so much about archaeology? (We know you're not an archaeologist.)
Very true. However, I have a Ph.D. in anthropology, and although I specialized in linguistics, I took classes in archaeology. So, I know something about archaeology in Mesoamerica and more generally about how archaeology contributes to our knowledge of earlier cultures. I also spent enough time with archaeologists to know that they absolutely love their work. In that way, I made Pablo a fairly typical archaeologist. When people tell me they're thinking about going into archaeology, I always tell them to go for it.
Having said this, I have almost no first-hand experience with the day-to-day work of excavating. As an author writing about a dig, I probably should have signed onto a dig or at least hung around one. Instead, I did the next best thing. I went to the public library and found children's books on the life of archaeologists. I have found children's authors to be clear, detailed, and concise in their explanations, and that's where I got the majority of my information about excavating. Unfortunately, the books did not discuss how archaeologists carried out their work in 1950s Guatemala, so I had to make some educated guesses.
2. How could you bring yourself to kill your characters? (In other words, how could you be so hard-hearted?)
Let me start by saying that my characters live for me, just as they do for readers. However, writers have an extra layer of separation from their characters. I know that each character is a product of my imagination, and that gives me enough distance to kill off one or two in service to the story.
I will say that at one point in writing Knots, I was going to kill off one of my most likeable characters, and the members of my on-line writing group strongly objected. I was pleased that they had come to care about the character, but it meant that I had to reconsider his demise. In the end, I decided I could make some adjustments to the story and keep the character alive.
3. Why didn't you tell us that Ernesto Guevara was Che Guevara?
I wanted to, but unfortunately, it was the Cubans who nicknamed him Che. As far as I know, when Che Guevara was in Guatemala in 1954, he still used Ernesto, his given name. It would have been fun to let readers know that Ernesto was Che, but I couldn't think of a good way to tell people that without writing some pretty contrived dialogue. I finally decided that readers would come to know Che just as the Guatemalans did, as an idealistic and sometimes irritating young Argentinian, who was still basically a nobody.
4. Was a quipu really found at a Guatemalan dig?
No. That part of the story was fiction. Los Ancianos and the town of Chayaka exist only on a fictional plane, as do their residents. I portrayed the political and social situations of the time as accurately as I could, but Meg, Patricia, Noemi, and their families are products of my imagination (and yours, as an active reader).