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05/28/2003 Entry: "Kim Antieau's COYOTE COWGIRL -- magic, food, family"

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I remember Kim Antieau's THE JIGSAW WOMAN as being a good story, but spoiled by the preachiness. Hew new one, COYOTE COWGIRL, is heaps better. The style is Southwestern-flavored magical realism. The story is of an ugly duckling and her family dynamics. It's a great read, quirky and magical, no qualifications needed. Antieau's passion for progressive causes is toned to merge well with the characters and story. (As an aside, if you like Nina Kiriki Hoffman's books, you might also like COYOTE COWGIRL.)

Jeanne Les Flambeaux is the untalented one in her restaurant-owning family full of people with culinary skills. Beyond that, she's weird. As a child, she imagined the family heirloom skull and scepter talked to her. In the present day, when her loser lover steals the jeweled scepter from the family safe she left open, Jeanne is determined to track him down to recover it before her family has one more reason to think poorly of her. Or, perhaps more accurately, before she has one more reason to think poorly of herself.

Accompanying and guiding her is the left-behind skull, which begins talking to her again. (This is a skull with an attitude; he steals the show.) Making Jeanne uneasy on her road trip is the fact that there have been people disappearing from the area and police suspect a serial killer. Her adventures on the road take her to a couple of other locations. In my mind, the book is about the American Southwest, but the story stretches from Nevada to Mexico.

Besides the talking skull, Jeanne also encounters food magic and mystical, goddess magic. The incredible journey allows her to blossom, find love, and make peace with her family. All the coincidences and threads tie up nicely; the overall feeling I was left with is that everything is connected.

COYOTE COWGIRL is a fast-paced, upbeat read. Stay tuned until the end to read the recipes featured in the story. If any of you prepare them, let me know how they turn out.--Preeti

[Our thoughts on Kim Antieau's THE JIGSAW WOMAN]



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