Xtabentum:    A Novel of Yucatan - Rosy Hugener, Carl Hugener
How I wish I could have liked this book more. I didn't want to just like this book. I wanted to love this book. The whole premise of the story is of personal interest to me, as my own grandparents would have been small children somewhere in Mérida (or possibly Tizimín) at the time the historic events of the novel took place. Unfortunately, I just was not able to connect with the characters.

The story was intriguing enough to keep me reading to the end, but it lacked depth. It's like I was given the story by a completely disinterested party who was only interested in imparting facts. Details of locations and the personalities of the characters were present only enough to say they were there, but not enough to really get a feel for the locales, or to feel you know the characters. It had all the elements that should have made it a fascinating read: a good story, political intrigue, long-hidden family secrets and romance. Unfortunately, it just didn't work for me. There was so much here that could have been elaborated on to make this a truly magnificent and sweeping epic that I almost feel cheated.

Also, without the pull of a sweeping story, I wonder how well Xtabentum will go over with people who have no connection to Yucatan or the historic events presented. This story is obviously very near and dear to the author's heart, but given the sparse detail presented, it will be hard for a larger audience to feel engaged.

Ms. Hugener does show great promise, and I think Xtabentum would benefit tremendously from a re-write to add depth to the characters (what do they think, what motivates them, how do they feel, what is their connection to the world around them), especially the contemporary characters, who I feel were particularly cheated out of being fleshed out. This was a valiant first effort, and I would be willing to read another offering from her to see how her writing progresses.

On a positive note, this book has prompted me to pump my grandmother for whatever information she can recall regarding the historic events mentioned in Xtabentum. Also, just the mention of the native Yucatecan foods made me work up an appetite. I absolutely love papat zules, and I think it's high time I asked my grandmother to teach me how to make them.