By: Cynthia J. Bogard
Publisher: Atmosphere Press
Publication Date: February 15, 2024
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: August 14, 2023
Beach of the Dead, book two in The Heartland Trilogy, author Cynthia J. Bogard takes the reader on a journey south of the border to Zipolite, Mexico, which is the place to be to escape and reinvent oneself.
Jane Meyer needs to get out of Pine Hill Station, Texas now. She is on the run because she stabbed and killed her lover/graduate school advisor, Jonathan Wharton the Fifth. She knows there is no chance of un-ringing the bell of murder, and the first thing to shed from her past is her name. On her bus ride south, she meets Alex (Alejandro). Coincidentally, he is (sort of) on the run as well. He is gay and caught between the unacceptability of being gay in Texas (where his lover lives) and returning to his home in Mexico to figure out how he can explain to his family that at 26 years of age, this handsome man has not found a wife to settle down with and live happily ever after. As the journey continues from El Paso, to Jaurez, Mexico, Mexico City, Oaxaca, Perto Angel, and eventually for ‘Ana’, Zipolite, the two concoct a plan that could be mutually beneficial for them both.
Ana and Alejandro part ways in Oaxaca where Alejandro will reunite with his family, but not before extracting a promise from Ana. He will meet her in three weeks’ time in Zipolite at which time they will be married, and she will be the answer to present to his family to mask the reality (in his family’s eyes a sin) that he is gay. Ana continues south from Oxaca on a terrifying bus ride to Puerto Angel. From there, she must walk the next miles (approximately thirty minutes) that will take her to her end destination: Zipolite, Beach of the Dead. Ana (formerly Jane) was a history major and was intrigued to learn how this mysterious Zipolite was referred to as the Beach of the Dead. Fronting the Pacific Ocean, a serious and terrifying undercurrent and undertow existed where people could get trapped in its torrent, dragged to sea and never be seen again. Swimming on this beach wasn’t a consideration. On guard upon her initial arrival to this utopian paradise, it doesn’t take long for ‘Ana’ to let her guard down and learn to blend in with the latent hippie community on the cliffside overlooking the Pacific. It is when an early season hurricane touches down on her paradise, that the lies Ana carefully crafted begin to unravel and it’s just a matter of time before she must set her truth free.
In this second book of Ms. Bogard’s trilogy, she continues with a sound voice. Her storytelling ability is nuanced throughout with a strong tone of acceptance and ‘fitting in’ and she does an excellent job of assigning the voice to her main character Ana (formerly, Jane Meyer). She insists the premise of being gay or lesbian is not ‘abnormal.’ Rather, she artfully crafts scenes that portray perhaps there are still archaic thoughts toward being gay or lesbian and attempts to lay it out in more of a light of relationships should come from a place of love first no matter the union. I applaud her for writing the story in a frame of mind that doesn’t force feed the notion of gay and lesbianism. Rather, she uses characters to plead their stance; Thorpe, for example, is a lesbian and is comfortable with her preferences as much as Alejandro is with his affinity for men. Bogard captures the beauty of this magical place in Mexico with descriptive scenery that transports the reader to the moment and place in time: "...Eventually, the road straightened out to hills rather than mountains. The jungle gave way to farmland. We rounded a corner, and there it was, the sapphire Pacific. I had never seen an ocean before. Somehow the vastness of the horizon, so limitless, so unfathomable, scared me to the depths of my being..." (pg. 28). Having read the first book in the series, A History of Silence, I applaud the author once again for delivering a fantastic continuation of the story in book two.
Quill Says: Beach of the Dead is a great experience to take pause and think about acceptance, what matters most in life, and how much the truth really can set one free.
For more information on Beach of the Dead (The Heartland Trilogy, Book Two), please visit the author's website at: www.cynthiajbogard.com/