A ‘ghost’ story woven with teen love and tragedy … Distinguished by its setting in the historically rich and evocative landscape of Taos, N.M. [Sumner] draws upon the area’s natural beauty, and its Hispanic, Pueblo, Apache and Anglo roots, as the backdrop to an intricately woven tale of a community at risk.”
National Book Critics Circle
Well written, with intriguing characters, the novel illuminates a part of American society not often described in fiction. The Ghost of Milagro Creek won Best New Mexico Novel in 2010.
“[Ghost of Milagro Creek] is a little miracle for the way it bridges and leads and leaps, the way it frustrates and calms and punishes the reader who willingly goes willingly over these stepping stones…I found this novel worth my time, and so feel it will be worth yours, especially if you have an interest in New Mexico, in American Indian cosmology, in narrative structure and approaches, in good storytelling.”
The narrative shifts perspectives to illuminate the thoughts of … a cast of soulful and broken characters. Sumner’s prose hums with ancestral myths to craft a tale less about Mister and more about the wrecked history of his entire community.
Reminiscent of Rudolfo Anaya’s Bless Me Ultima, Melanie Sumner’s book soars with its own brand of magical realism.
New Mexico Magazine
A healing process surges through the novel with subtlety and force. Sumner has created a world that’s too rich and filled with engaging characters for just one novel; let’s hope for a sequel.
The Richmond Times
The Ghost of Milagro Creek is a splendid novel, rich in character and landscape, daring in form and voice. Melanie Sumner is an abundantly talented writer who will delight any serious reader who still loves a compelling story.
Melanie Sumner is a revelation, unfolding scenes that are by turns witty, sly and heartbreakingly lovely…Book clubs, move this one to the top of your list.
What a haunting novel. Melanie Sumner has given us a new spin on the Cain and Abel story that rises to the level of a new 21st century myth. It is old, it is new, it is deep, it is riveting – I couldn’t put it down. The Ghost of Milagro Creek is one of those novels you will never forget.
Sumner’s prose hums with ancestral myths to craft a tale less about Mister and more about the wrecked history of his entire community.
LINES WE LIKED: “ ‘A man tells this story one way,’ I said, ‘and a women another way.’”
To be Apache in the modern American West; to raise two sons between the mini-malls and barrios outside Taos, N.M.: What is it like? Ignacia Vigil Romero, a medicine woman — very old school — raises her sons among Latino, Native American and white neighbors, all of them wary and in awe of her skills. When both sons fall for the same girl, the reader falls through layers of time into countless stories of danger, love — a love strong enough to inspire murder — the pressures of community and blood boiling. You move tentatively across the page: “There were frozen patches in the road now, slick roots and icy stones. In the falling light, he watched the shadows sliding in and out of the piñon. When a crow’s caw startled him, he slipped on a root and hit the dirt.” You remember Willa Cather’s “O Pioneers!” and Edith Wharton’s “Ethan Frome” — books set in wildly different landscapes in which true love becomes a death cage. “Tu eres mi vida,” one of the sons tells the girl. Oh, how you wish he hadn’t.
Sumner begins each chapter with a petroglyph, an ancient carving in stone that Ignacia teaches Mister is part of the ancient “book of life.” The plot unfolds via police reports, witness transcripts, faxes and other testimonials. This weaving together of the traditional and the contemporary suits Sumner’s multigenerational tale. The drama of love turned to violence is almost secondary in this novel. Sumner’s most winning creation is Ignacia, the fiercely loving abuela, and the chorus of strong-willed and eccentric Taosenos, a community whose voices are rarely heard in literature.
A cavernous sense of loss permeates The Ghost of Milagro Creek, a tragic story of love and heartbreak and consequences set in the barrio of Taos, New Mexico… Sumner’s prose is a soulful tribute not only to her late husband, but also to the colorful cultures that define the contemporary American West. Her multigenerational story is captivating from the first page, and her gift for observation flourishes in the desert heat. “She wore high heels that could shave off a man’s ear, and she looked like she wanted to,” Sumner writes of Rocky, a mysterious girl capable of inspiring suicide (or murder) among blood brothers Mister and Tomas.
Though the moment on which Milagro Creek turns happens fairly early on, we’d rather not spoil it, mostly because Sumner so immediately brings her characters to life that when it happens, it’s devastating. And you can hit snooze on your Lovely Bones alarm; Ignacia’s out-of-body narration works seamlessly into a story that not only simmers with metaphysical tension, but requires a matronly knowledge of everyone’s business. And as the pressure rises, it’s clear that even if she were alive, there’s little her healing powers could do to help.
“Ghost” shimmers with the light and landscape of New Mexico, and sparkles with the uniquely bleak, dark humor that has allowed generations of Native Americans to survive the worst kind of well-intentioned ethnocide by the U.S. government. The multifaceted narrative moves forward and backward in time until a picture emerges — one strand at a time, much like the basket-weaving Ignacia’s tribe is known — of a small community whose broken world might finally have a chance at healing, if they can reclaim their once powerful medicine, hidden in plain sight.