Here we are with my second 5-star read of the year. I knew this one would be good. I’d been looking forward to reading it since checking out a review of it over on Lair of Books way back in 2021.
The Montoyas are used to a life without explanations. They know better than to ask why the pantry never seems to run low, or why their matriarch won’t ever leave their home in Four Rivers — not for graduations, weddings, or baptisms. But when Orquídea Divina invites them to her funeral and to collect their inheritance, they hope to learn the secrets that she has held onto so tightly their whole lives. Instead, Orquídea is transformed into a ceiba tree, leaving them with more questions than answers.
Seven years later, her gifts have manifested in different ways for Marimar, Rey, and Rhiannon, granting them unexpected blessings and powers. But soon, a hidden figure begins to tear through their family tree, picking them off one by one as it seeks to destroy Orquídea’s line. Determined to save what’s left of their family and uncover the truth behind their inheritance, her descendants travel to Ecuador — to the place where Orquídea buried her secrets and broken promises and never looked back. (Goodreads)
It’s weird, but I’m having a hard time formulating thoughts on this book. It’s as if my recollection of what I read and what I thought is foggy, making it hard for me to jot them down.
What do I remember? I remember falling for the story as soon as I started. I remember liking the writing and exclaiming to my book club how much I liked the story soon after starting, as I knew I would. This was a book club read, and I remember one of the other members enjoying it too.
I remember liking how Orquídea’s house is described, the fantastical nature of the land around it, and the mystery that surrounds Orquídea herself. I remember liking the descriptions of the family members, and the strong connection between the cousins Marimar and Rey, which reminded me of the strong connection between me and my closest cousins. Actually, the way Marimar and Rey interact with each other and around other family members reminded me so strongly of me and my cousins that I had to call each of them and spend some time chatting about our family, lol.
I remember liking the fantastical nature of this book, which seems to teeter on the murky edge between fantasy and magical realism. I can’t fully call it magical realism; and it’s much easier to give in and call it fantasy, although sometimes it seems to have more magical realism influences. Because of that, it reminds me of the Sarah Addison Allen books I’ve read, as well as Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude. Both of those authors are favorites of mine, so I guess it’s a given that I’d love The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina too. Besides, who can resist the pull of Orquídea Divina?
I’ve managed to write about 300 words without once saying what the story is about, lol, but that Goodreads summary does a good job giving the gist of it: The mysterious Orquídea Divina calls her family members home to bestow gifts on them before she passes — by transforming into a tree. The gifts are intended to offer protection from a malignant being from Orquídea’s past. But because Orquídea shared almost nothing of her past with her family, they must travel back to Orquídea’s place of birth, Guayaquil, Ecuador, to learn about their grandmother’s life and find out who is threatening them.
This was an engaging, engrossing, beautifully written story that I’m happy to have read. It may be difficult for me to recall all I read and felt about the story now, but the moment of Orquídea turning into a tree has stuck with me, and so too the natural flower blooms unnaturally sprouting from family members’ skin, the house in the valley of Four Rivers, and the Living Star.
It was a great read, one I’d recommend especially to those who enjoy novels similar to Sarah Addison Allen’s that aren’t quite magical realism, but it feels weird calling them full fantasy too. There’s a term for such books, but I can’t remember it.
Buy | Borrow | Bypass
I intend to check out some of Zoraida Córdova’s other books too, although I think the others are all YA and this is her first adult book.
Quotes from the book
“In that moment Orquídea realized that some people stay in places forever, even when they’re miserable, and that is neither bad nor good. It’s survival.”
“You could be born into a family, but you still had to choose them.”
“Belief was like glass — once broken it could be pieced back together but the fissures would always be there.”
“Lies carve out holes until they make one big enough to escape through.”