Summary and book reviews of The Queen of Water by Laura Resau

The Queen of Water

A novel based on a true story

by Laura Resau, Maria Virginia Farinango

The Queen of Water by Laura Resau, Maria Virginia Farinango X
The Queen of Water by Laura Resau, Maria Virginia Farinango
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  • First Published:
    Mar 2011, 368 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2012, 368 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Tamara Ellis Smith
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About this Book

Book Summary

In this poignant novel based on a true story, Virginia's story will speak to anyone who has ever struggled to find his or her place in the world. It will make you laugh and cry, and ultimately, it will fill you with hope.

Born in an Andean village in Ecuador, Virginia lives with her large family in a small, earthen-walled dwelling. In her village of indígenas, it is not uncommon to work in the fields all day, even as a child, or to be called a longa tonta - stupid Indian - by members of the ruling class of mestizos, or Spanish descendants. When seven-year-old Virginia is taken from her village to be a servant to a mestizo couple, she has no idea what the future holds.

In this poignant novel based on a true story, acclaimed author Laura Resau has collaborated with María Virginia Farinango to recount one girl's unforgettable journey to self-discovery.

Ages 13+

Chapter 1

Before dawn, I wake up to the sound of creatures scurrying inside the wall near my head. Mice and rats and dogs have burrowed these tunnels through the dried clay, searching for food scraps. I'm always searching for food scraps too. Right now my belly's already rumbling, and it's hours till breakfast.

The house is dark as a cave except for bits of blue light coming through the holes in the earthen walls. My gaze fixes on a new trail of golden honey oozing from a crack, just within arm's reach. Bees live in there, black bees that sting terribly, but make the best honey in the world. I poke my hand in the crack and scoop out the sticky sweetness and lick it from my finger. It's gritty but good.

Our guinea pigs are hungry now too, squeaking and dancing around in their corner, waiting for alfalfa. I can see every corner of our house from my sleeping place on the floor. Mamita and Papito are snoring under their wool blanket on a bed frame made of scrap wood. My brother and sister are...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Staring at the scars on her legs made by her drunken father, Virginia wonders if words can make scars on her heart. (p. 32) What words would have made scars on Virginia's heart? How can her scars be healed?

  2. The Doctorita verbally and physically abuses Virginia. Why does Virginia continue to stay with her when she has an opportunity to run away from her? How does the Doctorita convince Virginia that she can't leave?

  3. To improve her self-image and attain her dreams, Virginia stops eating and begins to exercise constantly. Why does she think that being thin will change her life? What does Jose tell her to make her start eating again? (p. 139) Why does Virginia choose to believe him?

  4. Why do the Doctorita and Carlos refuse to allow ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

This book pulls no punches. It does not sugar-coat María Virginia's experiences as a servant for a middle class mestizo family. She is dealt a cruel hand, and Laura Resau deftly writes about the details of her abuse - both physical and emotional - and her dreams of escaping her situation. Not easy stuff to read. But Laura also lyrically writes about Virginia's courage and determination - to learn to read, to understand science, to leave her abusive situation, to become the person she is meant to become - and the ways in which she slowly achieves these goals. An amazing story...continued

Full Review (634 words).

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(Reviewed by Tamara Ellis Smith).

Media Reviews

VOYA
A richly described coming-of-age story set in a culture both foreign and familiar... by turns shocking and funny.

Booklist
Starred Review. A moving, lyrical novel that will particularly resonate with teens caught between cultures.

Kirkus Reviews
Starred Review. [A] riveting tale... Bright spots of humor and warmth are woven throughout, and readers will agonize for Virginia while seething at her tormentors... By turns heartbreaking, infuriating and ultimately inspiring.

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. The authors' candid narrative richly depicts Virginia's passage from a childhood filled with demoralization to a young woman who sees her life through new eyes.

Reader Reviews

Louise J

Amazing True Story!
The story was extremely well-written and I was hooked from the first page and believe a great deal of adults and teenagers will get a lot out of this story. Very well done!
stacy

stacy.rosen@mac.com
A lovely book and well worth purchasing. I was engrossed with the intense story of Virginia and really admire her courage. If you can dream it you can do it, that is her motto and I truly enjoyed reading her story.

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Beyond the Book

The Collaboration Between Laura Resau and María Virginia Farinango

Laura Resau and María Virginia Farinango

In the author's note in The Queen of Water, Laura Resau tells the story of walking into María Virginia Farinango's small shop one snowy day. She had met María Virginia once before at the small community college where Laura taught English as a Second Language (ESL) and María Virginia was taking a class with Laura's colleague. Of this meeting she writes:

Because of the weather, [María Virginia's] store was deserted except for the two of us and her toddler son. It felt cozy there, wrapped in musty wool smells. I ended up staying for hours, sitting cross-legged on the floor with her. She told me the story of her life... Throughout her story, the cultural anthropologist in me was riveted, and the writer in me was ...

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