Book Review: Signs Preceding the End of the World by Yuri Herrera

Signs Preceding the End of the World is an acclaimed novella by Mexican author Yuri Herrera that tells the tale of a Mexican girl that must sneak across the border to deliver a message to her brother in the US. I thought the book was okay but I am not completely sure what the ending meant.

I read this book as part of the 2020 Thoughtful Reading Challenge. May’s challenge is to read a book by a Mexican author, which I’m pretty sure was a first for me. The experience left me thinking about translations and if readers can really get a full appreciation of an author’s talent from translated texts. Sure, the story line is there, but the author’s use of words in their native tongue doesn’t quite make it through the translation process. I think some of that happened with this novella.

Makita, the protagonist, lives in a rural town in Mexico. Her mother wants her to deliver a message to her brother, who left for the US the prior year. Makita needs to cross the border illegally, which involves getting help from the town’s three head gangsters. Then the book turns into a story of her journey and the situations and characters she encounters along the way.

Makita encounters hardships during her trip – capsizing during a river crossing, being shot by a disappointingly stereotypical American “patriot,” wandering lost and cold in a border town while she searches for her brother. It’s not a welcoming experience and the narration provides commentary on how empty and bland the Americans are.

**Spoiler alert – So at the end when she appeared to decide to stay, the decision didn’t make any sense. (I say “appeared” because this part was frustratingly vague.) She seemed ok with her life in Mexico and nothing good had happened to her in America, so why was she staying? That wasn’t developed well enough for me. I really wanted to know the “why.”

On a positive note, it was interesting to get this perspective on such a current topic. The whole point of the challenge this month was to learn a little more about Mexican culture, so mission accomplished.

Did you read a book by a Mexican author this month? Share with us in the comments section.

Reminder – June’s challenge is to read a book with a strong father character, in honor of Father’s Day.

6 thoughts on “Book Review: Signs Preceding the End of the World by Yuri Herrera

  1. I am still reading The Murmur of Bees by Sofia Segovia. I’m only a third of the way through and I am loving it. The story takes place at the time of the Spanish Flu in 1918 and is very relevant to the current challenge we are in. I highly recommend it so far!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I read Sudden Death by Álvaro Enrigue. It’s a unique book, so much so that the author even states: ‘As I write, I don’t know what this book is about’. I’m not terribly good at reviews, even in the clearest of cases, but I can say it’s about tennis. And history, and art, and passions of various kinds. Some factual, some fictional. It’s a little bit all over the place, but very witty at times and a worthwhile read.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m glad to hear that I am not the only one disappointed in “Signs Preceding the End of the World.” I had high expectations since I’ve read a few really good books about Mexico and trans-nationalism. (The Beast: Riding the Rails and Dodging Narcos on the Migrant Trail and an older book titled Mexican LIves). Although the story line was intriguing and kept my interest, I really had a hard time with the story line about her brother joining the military. The circumstances and the timeline associated just didn’t make sense to me. This left me questioning the credibility of the author and detracted from the rest of the story. Regarding the ending, I interpreted it to mean that when given the opportunity, Makita decides to stay. Despite all the faults and negative situations she encounters in the US, in the end she too cannot pass up the chance to stay. Does this say more about Mexico than it does about the US? Fortunately, it was a quick read….

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes!! I kept thinking “wait! He has to go to basic training and AIT before he gets deployed!” And I’m pretty sure the fact he didn’t speak English would have been a showstopper. It did make the author less credible.


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