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Squalor, New Mexico

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Darla McKendrick is nine when she first hears her mother and her aunt Didi secretly discussing their younger sister, Rebecca, speculating about her life in squalor. From the moment Darla asks to know more about her mysterious aunt, she is offered nothing but half-truths, distortions, and evasions. As Darla grows into her teen years, her life is oddly yet profoundly Darla McKendrick is nine when she first hears her mother and her aunt Didi secretly discussing their younger sister, Rebecca, speculating about her life in squalor. From the moment Darla asks to know more about her mysterious aunt, she is offered nothing but half-truths, distortions, and evasions. As Darla grows into her teen years, her life is oddly yet profoundly affected by this woman she has never known. She can't help but notice that Rebecca seems to exist only in dark corners of conversations and that no one ever wants to talk about her - with Darla. Squalor, New Mexico is a coming-of-age story shrouded in family mystery. As the plot takes twists and turns, secrets are revealed not only to Darla but to the "secret keepers" as well. Darla learns that families are only as strong as the truths they hold and as weak as the secrets they keep.


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Darla McKendrick is nine when she first hears her mother and her aunt Didi secretly discussing their younger sister, Rebecca, speculating about her life in squalor. From the moment Darla asks to know more about her mysterious aunt, she is offered nothing but half-truths, distortions, and evasions. As Darla grows into her teen years, her life is oddly yet profoundly Darla McKendrick is nine when she first hears her mother and her aunt Didi secretly discussing their younger sister, Rebecca, speculating about her life in squalor. From the moment Darla asks to know more about her mysterious aunt, she is offered nothing but half-truths, distortions, and evasions. As Darla grows into her teen years, her life is oddly yet profoundly affected by this woman she has never known. She can't help but notice that Rebecca seems to exist only in dark corners of conversations and that no one ever wants to talk about her - with Darla. Squalor, New Mexico is a coming-of-age story shrouded in family mystery. As the plot takes twists and turns, secrets are revealed not only to Darla but to the "secret keepers" as well. Darla learns that families are only as strong as the truths they hold and as weak as the secrets they keep.

30 review for Squalor, New Mexico

  1. 4 out of 5

    Ward

    I love this book. It’s one of my top five books of all time. I just finished reading it a few months ago, and plan to read it again very soon. Normally, I read non-fiction but this book is more real than most non-fiction. The characters were so believable and true to life that I wanted to meet them after I finished the book. I genuinely wanted to see how they were doing. My own life is about overcoming obstacles. While my book, Thank My Lucky Scars, chronicles the real-life hurdles I have faced I love this book. It’s one of my top five books of all time. I just finished reading it a few months ago, and plan to read it again very soon. Normally, I read non-fiction but this book is more real than most non-fiction. The characters were so believable and true to life that I wanted to meet them after I finished the book. I genuinely wanted to see how they were doing. My own life is about overcoming obstacles. While my book, Thank My Lucky Scars, chronicles the real-life hurdles I have faced with my physical challenges, Squalor, New Mexico chronicles the emotional hurdles that the protagonist, Darla McKendrick faces as she grows up (from the ages of 9 – 16). When Darla is nine, the mystery of her Aunt Rebecca (her mom and her aunt’s younger sister) truly becomes known to her. As she gets older, it seems like the more she asks about her aunt, the more quickly the adults scramble to cover the truth. But do they really know the truth themselves? And why is it, that every time Darla finds herself in trouble, the adults turn the conversation around to Rebecca? As Darla enters her teen years, she is faced with one decision after another. The reason this book is so powerful is because it offers so many lessons, very subtle lessons — the kind that offer tremendous growth to people of all ages. They are the kind of lessons that kids will learn without knowing there are any lessons. While I wholeheartedly recommend this book for people of both sexes and all ages, I think it’s an especially great book for kids and parents to read and discuss. I was particularly impressed by the way the author shows both sides of the parent/child conflict without taking sides. Lisette Brodey writes about a family. Without being preachy, she shows how good people can make bad decisions and stresses the importance of family unity in healing. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There truly is so much more. My wife, my daughter, my niece and my family doctor all enjoyed Squalor, New Mexico immensely and cannot stop talking about it. It’s a book to be remembered long after it’s read. I’ll be giving it to several people as a gift this holiday season.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jen Knox

    This is the first book I finished in 2011! I'm partial to memoir. The first person telling, especially from a young person's POV, can be difficult to pull off in a believable way in a novel. Squalor, New Mexico, however, is an example of how to do it well. In this tale, Lisette Brodey has created a narrator who is so endearing that her telling and revelations within the book feel like genuine (albeit innocent) confession; it is as though she exists and is teasing out the secrets of the adults This is the first book I finished in 2011! I'm partial to memoir. The first person telling, especially from a young person's POV, can be difficult to pull off in a believable way in a novel. Squalor, New Mexico, however, is an example of how to do it well. In this tale, Lisette Brodey has created a narrator who is so endearing that her telling and revelations within the book feel like genuine (albeit innocent) confession; it is as though she exists and is teasing out the secrets of the adults around her, dealing with the normal coming-of-age difficulties, and letting us in on her journey. There was a subtle humor and depth to this book that I simply loved. Surprisingly, Squalor, New Mexico has impressed me enough to rank up there with some of my favorite memoirs. It's difficult for a piece of fiction to romance me in the manner memoirs and personal essays do, but I felt there was an honesty here that is worth revisiting.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Sheri

    Squalor New Mexico is a front to back 5 star read. Darla McKendrick is a child when she hears her mother and Aunt Didi talking about their sister Rebecca. Darla and her three cousins are curious about their estranged Aunt. Yet when questioning their parents they never seem to get the answers they desire, leaving the topic of Rebecca a mystery. As Darla matures she seeks more answers on her mysterious Aunt, who seems to profoundly affect her entire family. As truths are revealed, more secrets Squalor New Mexico is a front to back 5 star read. Darla McKendrick is a child when she hears her mother and Aunt Didi talking about their sister Rebecca. Darla and her three cousins are curious about their estranged Aunt. Yet when questioning their parents they never seem to get the answers they desire, leaving the topic of Rebecca a mystery. As Darla matures she seeks more answers on her mysterious Aunt, who seems to profoundly affect her entire family. As truths are revealed, more secrets await in an emotional, thought provoking story of love, family and secrets. Ms. Brodey brings life to her characters, pulling you into their minds, body and soul. Leaving no questions unanswered, Squalor New Mexico does prove that Families are as strong as the truths they hold and as weak as the secrets they keep. Also by Ms. Brodey Crooked Moon, Molly Hacker Is Too Picky!& Her new Y/A paranormal release Mystical High!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Christy Stewart

    In my review for Brodey's first book I said that there was little of the content that I related to but this book is the polar opposite. The book follows the life of a girl from her childhood on and on, and it does so with such candor for what it is to be a young woman (or person in general) growing up. Darla is like a mirror image of anyone at their most awkward moments from when she believes that squalor is a city in New Mexico on to when she tells her father that she hates him. This book has In my review for Brodey's first book I said that there was little of the content that I related to but this book is the polar opposite. The book follows the life of a girl from her childhood on and on, and it does so with such candor for what it is to be a young woman (or person in general) growing up. Darla is like a mirror image of anyone at their most awkward moments from when she believes that squalor is a city in New Mexico on to when she tells her father that she hates him. This book has great humor and great drama, each approached with such a realistic fashion. A great story of family being your biggest enemy and best friend. The nuclear's family dynamic was my favorite part of the story as Darla gradually discovers the humanity of her parents and the depth of personal responsibility it takes to become an adult.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Stuart

    I enjoyed every aspect of, Lisette Brodey’s highly entertaining novel, ‘Squalor, New Mexico’. The story flows wonderfully from the onset when nine-year-old Darla McKendric becomes aware of her mysterious Aunt Rebecca. We follow Darla as she searches for the truth. The tale is told with such amazing realism, candour and delightful wit infused throughout. With skilfully developed characters, we are taken on a journey of family secrets, lies and betrayal. I was totally captivated as the story I enjoyed every aspect of, Lisette Brodey’s highly entertaining novel, ‘Squalor, New Mexico’. The story flows wonderfully from the onset when nine-year-old Darla McKendric becomes aware of her mysterious Aunt Rebecca. We follow Darla as she searches for the truth. The tale is told with such amazing realism, candour and delightful wit infused throughout. With skilfully developed characters, we are taken on a journey of family secrets, lies and betrayal. I was totally captivated as the story advanced and mysteries were answered. ‘Squalor, New Mexico’ is a tale that will stay with you long after you turn the last page----outstanding storytelling. I highly recommend this fine publication to everyone who enjoys reading great books.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Wright Gres

    If you've read Lisette Brodey's "Crooked Moon," you know the good writing and reading treat you're in for. At the same time, "Squalor New Mexico" is a very different kind of story. Told from the point of view of a young girl growing up, the story is delightful, sometimes making you feel the hurt, confusion, and anguish of growing up, and leading us to unexpected revelations. Oh, and don't make the mistake of thinking Squalor is a place in the American Southwest. Not my usual fare -- I'm more often If you've read Lisette Brodey's "Crooked Moon," you know the good writing and reading treat you're in for. At the same time, "Squalor New Mexico" is a very different kind of story. Told from the point of view of a young girl growing up, the story is delightful, sometimes making you feel the hurt, confusion, and anguish of growing up, and leading us to unexpected revelations. Oh, and don't make the mistake of thinking Squalor is a place in the American Southwest. Not my usual fare -- I'm more often into bloody-fisted adventure and intrigue -- though this one creeped up on me. A very enjoyable read that put a smile on my face. Enjoy.

  7. 4 out of 5

    LA

    Brodey's second book is a masterpiece. It's impossible to read this novel without easily identifying with and caring deeply about the characters. Sadly, this is a skill that many of today's writers do not possess. There is not one character who seems to have it "all together" or lives a perfect existence. Each person has some sort of trial to face, with some handling it better than others. This integration of real-life problems that many of today's families must battle adds the human element Brodey's second book is a masterpiece. It's impossible to read this novel without easily identifying with and caring deeply about the characters. Sadly, this is a skill that many of today's writers do not possess. There is not one character who seems to have it "all together" or lives a perfect existence. Each person has some sort of trial to face, with some handling it better than others. This integration of real-life problems that many of today's families must battle adds the human element without being condescending or preaching. Probably the most alluring point of her work is the hidden-in-plain-view lessons that stay with the reader long after the last page is read. All of the characters are painfully and sometimes embarrassingly human, with flaws and negative traits, but most of them have redeeming qualities that supersede the negatives. This is a story about love, loyalty, forgiveness, family, and community that should be read by anyone who is a young adult or has a young adult in their lives. It's a page turner and the reader will find that the time spent reading is well spent. It renews the belief that quality fiction is being written today, if you look for it.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Marta Moran Bishop

    This is a beautifully told story of just how much secrets, lies and the refusal of adults to let the past go and move on can hurt even those who have no part of the event. It shows a complexity of emotions, while delving into the depth of emotional upheaval that puberty brings, made worse by a disfunctional family life. Darla is time after time brought into the dark little family secret, while being told lies and half-truths which only serve to confuse and make her even more curious. I loved this This is a beautifully told story of just how much secrets, lies and the refusal of adults to let the past go and move on can hurt even those who have no part of the event. It shows a complexity of emotions, while delving into the depth of emotional upheaval that puberty brings, made worse by a disfunctional family life. Darla is time after time brought into the dark little family secret, while being told lies and half-truths which only serve to confuse and make her even more curious. I loved this book for its honestly protrayed characters. Squalor, NM is a book that can be read by a mature teen or an adult with the same jest and heartbreak. It gives the reader an insight into just how harmful it can be for an entire family. Full of heartrending honesty this book is simply a must read.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Michael Rusk

    You may read my review at www.amazon.com/Squalor-New-Mexico-Lis... as DeciduousTree. To sum it up - I love the book and highly recommend it to everyone. Don't be misled by the YA label some have added to it. I found it to be a mystery novel that was as gripping and intense as some other authors whose books have been made into movies. In fact, Squalor, New Mexico would make a great movie!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Maria Stanica

    4.5/5 stars. Woah.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Joann Muszynski

    Sounds like a great book that is a must read for me.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Annie

    Squalor, New Mexico is now one of my favorite books. What a beautiful story and so real. I absolutely loved this book and will recommend it to all my friends.

  13. 5 out of 5

    LK Griffie

    Remember those humiliating moments during childhood and adolescence when making a public mistake? Or when someone outside the family has been subjected to the dorkiness that is your parents? If so, you'll have an idea of what it's like to be Darla McKendrick, who is easily embarrassed by her father's cliches and suffered a major humiliation because of a lie told to her by Aunt Didi when she first learned of an aunt she'd never met -- Rebecca. As Squalor, New Mexico opens, nine-year-old Darla Remember those humiliating moments during childhood and adolescence when making a public mistake? Or when someone outside the family has been subjected to the dorkiness that is your parents? If so, you'll have an idea of what it's like to be Darla McKendrick, who is easily embarrassed by her father's cliches and suffered a major humiliation because of a lie told to her by Aunt Didi when she first learned of an aunt she'd never met -- Rebecca. As Squalor, New Mexico opens, nine-year-old Darla overhears a conversation between her mother and Aunt Didi about her mysterious Aunt Rebecca, who they only discussed when they thought no one else was listening. This time what captured Darla's attention was a word she didn't understand because Aunt Didi described Rebecca as living in squalor, so just as all children do, Darla asked what squalor meant. As her mother hemmed and hawed, Aunt Didi jumped in to answer. "It's a town in New Mexico, Darla. It's an Indian name." Darla had more questions about the tidbits she'd overheard, but the additional questions were squashed and she was sent to finish some homework. But, of course, Darla couldn't let it go, so a couple weeks later, when having dinner with the Alexanders (Aunt Didi's family) Darla questioned why they couldn't visit Aunt Rebecca, and Uncle George took on the answer.        "Darla, listen to me," Uncle George barked. "We don't see your aunt Rebecca because, well, as your aunt Didi says, she lives in Squalor, and knowing Rebecca, you can be damn sure there's no way she'll ever get out. That's it now!"        "She could screw her way out!" I said helpfully. Which of course caused a family uproar as Darla had only repeated the words Aunt Didi said. And for awhile, that was it, even though Darla didn't forget about the mysterious aunt who seemed to make her parents edgy every time her name was mentioned. That is until Darla was in the seventh grade, and her enemy Amy Ludwig, whom Darla referred to as Lughead, smugly answered the question of what cities were in New Mexico, but Darla knew she could top her. "I have an aunt who lives in Squalor!" I said proudly, looking right into the Lughead's eyes. Darla was mortified when she found out that, as her teacher put it, "...you'll find squalor in the dictionary, not on the map." Lisette Brodey takes us on a journey into a family where secrets abound and cause untold pain as Darla is growing up because there are so many things which are kept a secret and she feels she is being blamed for Rebecca's mistakes instead of her own. And no matter how hard she tries, she can't seem to get away from the shadow that Rebecca still cast in their lives -- even when no one had heard from her or seen her since before Darla was born. Ultimately, Darla and her three cousins, April, May, and June try to piece together the past to help unlock the present. I'll be honest, when I saw the number of pages listed for the book, my eyes opened a bit as it would be on the long side for a young adult novel. I do know that the novel originally was not intended as a young adult, but does fit in the young adult mold, although can be enjoyed by all ages from young adult on up. So, in a way, I'm glad I read the book on my Kindle because with a Kindle you simply keep on turning the pages, and there isn't the physical reminder of the size of the book (unless you watch the little scroll bar at the bottom). This enabled me to read for the pleasure of it, and I found the story kept pulling me along to the point where I didn't want to stop reading. I wanted to find out exactly what happened in the past and why they allowed the past to cast such a long and all-encompassing shadow over their lives.Brodey does a masterful job of putting us in the mind of Darla McKendrick and we feel her pain as she is growing and maturing into a young woman. Throughout the book are wonderful characters to meet, such as the detestable Uncle Martin and his latest floozy, Maude. By the time you're done reading Squalor, New Mexico, you'll feel as if you are a member of the McKendrick's extended family, who for all their flaws, really do love one another. Definitely a book to check out. Originally reviewed for the LL Book Review

  14. 4 out of 5

    Louise

    Story Description: Saberlee Books|June 11, 2009|Trade Paperback|ISBN: 978-0-9815836-1-7 Darla McKendrick is nine when she first hears her mother and her aunt Didi secretly discussing their younger sister, Rebecca, speculating about her life in squalor. From the moment Darla asks to know more about her mysterious aunt, she is offered nothing but half-truths, distortions, and evasions. As Darla grows into her teen years, her life is oddly yet profoundly affected by this woman she has never known. Story Description: Saberlee Books|June 11, 2009|Trade Paperback|ISBN: 978-0-9815836-1-7 Darla McKendrick is nine when she first hears her mother and her aunt Didi secretly discussing their younger sister, Rebecca, speculating about her life in squalor. From the moment Darla asks to know more about her mysterious aunt, she is offered nothing but half-truths, distortions, and evasions. As Darla grows into her teen years, her life is oddly yet profoundly affected by this woman she has never known. She can’t help but notice that Rebecca seems to exist only in dark corners of conversations and that no one ever wants to talk about her – with Darla. Squalor, New Mexico is a coming-of-age story shrouded in family mystery. As the plot takes twists and turns, secrets are revealed not only to Darla but to the “secret keepers” as well. Darla learns that families are only as strong as the truths they hold and as weak as the secrets they keep. My Review: Nine-year-old, Darla is eavesdropping on her Mom and Aunt Didi’s conversation but the only time they ever had this particular conversation was when they thought no one else was around. That topic happened to be, Aunt Rebecca, Mom and Aunt Didi’s youngest sister. Darla had never met her. Darla decided to let her presence be known so she could gather some information about this woman as she figured if she never asked then she’d never find out. She’d heard her Aunt Didi say to her mother: “I’m sure she’s still living in squalor…unless she’s screwed her way out!” Of course, at nine, Darla had no idea whatsoever what that meant so she popped up and asked: “What’s squalor, Mom?” Mom was startled to say the least at, Darla’s presence and inquired as to how long she’d been standing there. Aunt Didi quickly piped up and responded: “It’s a town in New Mexico, Darla. It’s an Indian name.” There was no way the women were going to discuss Aunt Rebecca with Darla around so they quickly sent her back to her bedroom to complete her book report for school. As Darla grew older she began to notice that Aunt Rebecca was frequently the topic of conversation but always on the hush-hush and no one wanted to talk about her to anyone else, especially Darla, which, Darla thought was kind of weird. Darla’s life is very affected by this mysterious Aunt Rebecca but she still can’t get anyone to discuss this unknown Aunt with her, but why? Both her father and her Uncle George seem especially rattled whenever, Aunt Rebecca’s name comes up and neither seems to know where to look or what to do. All Darla knows is that she isn’t to ask questions, period. Aunt Didi and Uncle George’s three daughters, April, May and June don’t know anything about this aunt either. Squalor, New Mexico is a coming-of-age story that is smothered in the unknown and on the surface, the family has a good time but really underneath they are a family shredded, torn apart and in great pain. Didi and Maggie often argue over and talk about what a loser their youngest sister, Rebecca is but even they don’t know the whole story. They think they know what an evil, rotten, good-for-nothing person she is but one day the truth may just set them free. I so loved this story and didn’t want to see it end. I wanted it to go on forever and wanted to learn even more about each of these characters right from Darla to her Mom, to Aunt Didi and Uncle George, her three cousins, April, May and June and even her best friend, Melanie. The story was so well-written that I felt as though I was standing inside Darla’s house sitting on a chair watching these two families interact. I could picture perfectly in my mind’s eye the layout of the house, could imagine the knick-knacks sitting around and could smell the pancakes, Maggie cooked. Squalor, New Mexico was a book I just couldn’t put down and I’m actually going to read it a second time it was that good and I enjoyed it that much. This is definitely a keeper!! Thank you Ms. Brodey for providing me with two days of entertainment that I lost my entire being in.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Maria

    I really enjoyed this book. This is a young adult book but it will appeal to readers of all ages in my opinion as it deals with a subject that everyone can relate to: family relationships. The book is written in the first person from the perspective of Darla, a teenager. Lisette Brodey has done well to really get inside the mind of the character, she has captured teenage angst well. I enjoyed this story about a family secret that captures the imagination of Darla, her cousins, and her best I really enjoyed this book. This is a young adult book but it will appeal to readers of all ages in my opinion as it deals with a subject that everyone can relate to: family relationships. The book is written in the first person from the perspective of Darla, a teenager. Lisette Brodey has done well to really get inside the mind of the character, she has captured teenage angst well. I enjoyed this story about a family secret that captures the imagination of Darla, her cousins, and her best friend. Darla knows she has an aunt named Rebecca, but the family have lost touch with her. Members of her family have compared Darla to Rebecca over the years, expressing their concern that she might end up the same as her; this just stirs her curiosity even more. What is the big secret, the real reason that the family never see Rebecca? Darla makes it her mission to find out. The book is full of realistic characters. Brodey's innate understanding of human behaviour and psychology really comes across in this book. I especially liked the way she could switch from writing the narrative from the perspective of a teenager, to writing wonderfully inspirational dialogue from the perspective of an elderly woman when Darla meets Victoria in a Care Home. There are many twists and turns and many unexpected events that give this book a very original flavour. Squalor, New Mexico, is a well written, entertaining story that contains a wealth of wisdom. It will make you laugh, shock you, enthrall you, and most of all it will make you think. Well worth reading.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Racheal Renwick

    Lisette Brodey, an amazing author, really gave me something to tear up about besides my hormonal pregnancy tendencies. Squalor, New Mexico is a brilliantly written book. It plays out just how any story would when being told through the eyes of a girl. A girl named Darla. Darla is an ordinary girl growing up in an ordinary household. Until one day she learns she has an Aunt she never knew about. Aunt Rebecca. From that moment on, over the years, Rebecca's name happens to pop up more and more. And Lisette Brodey, an amazing author, really gave me something to tear up about besides my hormonal pregnancy tendencies. Squalor, New Mexico is a brilliantly written book. It plays out just how any story would when being told through the eyes of a girl. A girl named Darla. Darla is an ordinary girl growing up in an ordinary household. Until one day she learns she has an Aunt she never knew about. Aunt Rebecca. From that moment on, over the years, Rebecca's name happens to pop up more and more. And with Darla's mother and Aunt Didi being so secretive, and her father and Uncle George refusing to speak about her, Darla, (with the aid of her best friend Melanie, and three theatrical cousins, April, May, And June) slowly unravels the mysteries of Aunt Rebecca, and the world of being a teenager. Through all the twists and turns of Darla's life, she learns of love, trust, the joys of laughter and friendship, and the sorrow of their absence. Lisette Brodey has fast become one of my most favorite Authors. This YA novel, is not only for young readers, but I myself as a wife and parent, and once a teenager myself, found it easy to connect with the characters, and put myself into the story.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Ann Mauren

    Squalor, New Mexico, by Lisette Brodey, is a page-turning journey through a family’s mysterious and dark past as revealed through the investigations of one if its youngest members. Part mystery, part coming of age, and part family biography, the story pulled me onboard and captivated my heart and my imagination like a runaway train. Ms. Brodey’s prose has a pleasing rhythm infused with rich detail, relatable—even familiar—conversations, and perfectly timed humor laced throughout. As an honest Squalor, New Mexico, by Lisette Brodey, is a page-turning journey through a family’s mysterious and dark past as revealed through the investigations of one if its youngest members. Part mystery, part coming of age, and part family biography, the story pulled me onboard and captivated my heart and my imagination like a runaway train. Ms. Brodey’s prose has a pleasing rhythm infused with rich detail, relatable—even familiar—conversations, and perfectly timed humor laced throughout. As an honest and poignant portrayal of family dynamics and the power of love and forgiveness, you will find that a trip to ‘Squalor, New Mexico’ is just as much about the journey as it is about the satisfying destination! For more on this author check out her website at http://www.lisettebrodey.com/

  18. 5 out of 5

    Megan Hansen

    This was a very captivating read! The story starts with Darla at nine years old having her innocent eyes opened to a very adult reality. The story turns into an intriguing mystery as Darla and the reader discovers more and more about the world around her as she grows up. The narrative is perfect, easy to read and be enthralled by. The last half of the book is a whirlwind of drama as the story unfolds and all her family secrets come to light. It was impossible to put this book down!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Sherrie

    I admit that I have just received Squalor, New Mexico, so I have nothing to say so far, other than I am cursing any and all distractions coming my way to keep me from what I know will not disappoint. Lisette Brodey is truly intuitive and brilliant at portraying human nature. And for myself, nothing speaks more highly about an author and her craft. (Wait a week or so, and then watch me find more ways of speaking highly!!)

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jan Romes

    This coming of age novel was superb! I grew up with six sisters and two brothers, so I could relate to many of the things the main character - Darla McKendrick - went through; both on a personal level and watching my siblings experience them. Much of Darla's teenage years were difficult, in part because she thirsted to make her own decisions, but also because she lived in the shadow of her mystery aunt (I don't want to say much about why, because it's something you need to read for yourself. All This coming of age novel was superb! I grew up with six sisters and two brothers, so I could relate to many of the things the main character - Darla McKendrick - went through; both on a personal level and watching my siblings experience them. Much of Darla's teenage years were difficult, in part because she thirsted to make her own decisions, but also because she lived in the shadow of her mystery aunt (I don't want to say much about why, because it's something you need to read for yourself. All I can say is that you don't want to miss how vital the aunt's shadow is to the plot). Little by little she got bits and pieces about her Aunt Rebecca, but it wasn't enough to explain why the mere mention of her name made her parents and other relatives uneasy. The author expertly put Darla in situations that caused her and her parents a lot of grief, but those situations all had purpose. One of the greatest things in the story is Darla's relationship with an elderly lady in a nursing home (Victoria). That touched my heart. As I read, I could feel Darla mature, and her spunky, inquisitive nature took the story to a surprise and incredible ending. Darla got answers she craved, some that shocked her to the core. I cried at certain things that happened. Even though Darla was a fictional character, she's one you want to hug.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Katie Mettner

    Squalor, New Mexico was a thought-provoking read for anyone. The book is about family secrets, family discord, and the one girl caught up in the middle of it. Her inquisitive nature didn't help those matters any, but when you grow hearing about 'Aunt Rebecca this and Aunt Rebecca that', you'd probably be curious about it as well. Darla was just a regular teenager, going through some not so regular teenager stuff. She had life lessons to learn and there were many people there along the way to Squalor, New Mexico was a thought-provoking read for anyone. The book is about family secrets, family discord, and the one girl caught up in the middle of it. Her inquisitive nature didn't help those matters any, but when you grow hearing about 'Aunt Rebecca this and Aunt Rebecca that', you'd probably be curious about it as well. Darla was just a regular teenager, going through some not so regular teenager stuff. She had life lessons to learn and there were many people there along the way to help her. I especially liked the character Victoria and the way she helped Darla grow. My favorite quote of the book was, "For me, it was proof that love was more powerful than the darkness that covered it; stronger than the resentment that refused to see it. That day I saw love in its purest form: Mom and Aunt Rebecca, for those moments - letting go of every grudge, of every reason to turn away, of every she said, she did, of every ugliness that divides a family and crushes the human spirit." Those three sentences sum up the beauty of this book and characters. If you love books about family, healing, and forgiveness, you'll love Squalor, New Mexico.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Richard Schwindt

    Maybe it's the family therapist in me but I am fascinated by Lisette Brodey's work. She is a excellent writer but she has a family therapist's eye and ear for the undercurrents and dynamics of family. This characterizes all of her work; though her tone varies book to book. Darla McKendrick is a young teenager fascinated and a little confused by her family history. Her confusion is understandable - and common in families with secrets. In this case the secret involves a lost aunt; someone who is Maybe it's the family therapist in me but I am fascinated by Lisette Brodey's work. She is a excellent writer but she has a family therapist's eye and ear for the undercurrents and dynamics of family. This characterizes all of her work; though her tone varies book to book. Darla McKendrick is a young teenager fascinated and a little confused by her family history. Her confusion is understandable - and common in families with secrets. In this case the secret involves a lost aunt; someone who is not discussed, or apparently much remembered. Someone who, it seems, is beyond the pale. Darla's native wisdom and curiosity drive her towards maturity; investigating the lies behind the family facade. Brodey has a lovely sensitivity towards those who are down; understanding that sometimes people struggle for a reason. Wonderful book for readers who enjoy heartfelt and well-crafted fiction. Highly recommended.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Mary Jo

    A family love story So real. The ups and downs of a troubled but loving family. I loved the characters. The teenagers innocence was so true.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Katelyn (Tales of Books and Bands)

    As the story starts out, we are introduced to a very young Darla. She is a curious little thing and that gets her into trouble as she overhears a conversation her mom is having with her Aunt Didi. What Darla doesn’t know at the time is that overhearing this small conversation will cause a lot of pain, embarrassment, and enlightenment on family secrets in her future. When I first read the summary of the book, I was curious to see just how far the family secrets can stem back into the past. We As the story starts out, we are introduced to a very young Darla. She is a curious little thing and that gets her into trouble as she overhears a conversation her mom is having with her Aunt Didi. What Darla doesn’t know at the time is that overhearing this small conversation will cause a lot of pain, embarrassment, and enlightenment on family secrets in her future. When I first read the summary of the book, I was curious to see just how far the family secrets can stem back into the past. We learn very little at the beginning of the story only that Darla’s long lost Aunt Rebecca had a rough childhood. One secret is revealed and soon after a whole mess of family secrets is unraveled. I felt it was hard to connect with the character at first but as it progressed I could understand every feeling she was going through. I know how frustrating parents can be even when they are just acting like their normal, clueless selves. I know how hard it can be to be embarrassed in front of the boy you like by your father. I am a teenager; I have been through all of that before so as I said, it was easier to connect with Darla as the story went on. At the beginning I was also a bit lost as to why this deep, dark secret of her Aunt Rebecca fascinated her so much. She spends so much time and energy fighting one battle after another with her parents trying to find out the truth. I just kept thinking, “What’s the point is this really all worth it?” But I finally came to the conclusion that yes it is SO worth it. Like every teenager eventually does, Darla gains a backbone. She stands up to her parents, goes through a “rebellious” stage and gets into a bit of trouble. Throughout all of this she is constantly being compared to her Aunt Rebecca a woman she has never even met. It is with this knowledge that I decided that had I been in a similar situation, I would do my best to get to the bottom of things so I can rest easy. There were a few things that I felt iffy about when reading this book but the one thing I loved more than anything is the mix of characters and the tremendous amount of personal growth they gain throughout the whole story. Darla goes through many of the stereotypical stages of a teenager but as the story nears the end, she is nearly a grown, responsible woman. She learns how to deal with difficult situations. She becomes less hot-tempered and learns how to talk and discuss with her parents without throwing a fit. Smaller characters such as Darla’s parents and her cousins also make a great amount of changes. Darla’s parents are great parents in this story, always involved in their only daughter’s life but it becomes almost suffocating to Darla. When she rebels against them, they react with force. There were many times I became so irritated with the two of them (definitely my teenage side showing through) but they learn throughout the book. They learn to trust their daughter, to let go of the past, and to become more understanding of the person their daughter is trying to become. Darla’s cousins, April, May, and June are all so special, unique additions to this story. They added sunshine and smiles during darker times of the story. They become bigger and more important characters throughout the whole course of the book and with that we get to learn more and more about each one of them. Difficult times and harsh issues with their parents cause the girls to learn a great deal of life lessons in a short amount of time. They were great friends to Darla through all her troubles and I sincerely enjoyed being “introduced” to every one of them. I also loved the sense of mystery this whole book provided. Just when I thought I had it figured out, I knew for a fact what happened to Rebecca, something would happen to completely contradict my theory. I was kept guessing all the way up to the last few pages of the book. I love how I was always put on the edge of my seat. I was always hoping that Darla and her cousins could solve the mystery of their Aunt Rebecca. For starting the book off in an unsure mindset, I was glad to see that I actually ended up enjoying Squalor, New Mexico! There are many beautiful lessons woven into this book of family mysteries!

  25. 5 out of 5

    LK Griffie

    Remember those humiliating moments during childhood and adolescence when making a public mistake? Or when someone outside the family has been subjected to the dorkiness that is your parents? If so, you'll have an idea of what it's like to be Darla McKendrick, who is easily embarrassed by her father's cliches and suffered a major humiliation because of a lie told to her by Aunt Didi when she first learned of an aunt she'd never met -- Rebecca. As Squalor, New Mexico opens, nine-year-old Darla Remember those humiliating moments during childhood and adolescence when making a public mistake? Or when someone outside the family has been subjected to the dorkiness that is your parents? If so, you'll have an idea of what it's like to be Darla McKendrick, who is easily embarrassed by her father's cliches and suffered a major humiliation because of a lie told to her by Aunt Didi when she first learned of an aunt she'd never met -- Rebecca. As Squalor, New Mexico opens, nine-year-old Darla overhears a conversation between her mother and Aunt Didi about her mysterious Aunt Rebecca, who they only discussed when they thought no one else was listening. This time what captured Darla's attention was a word she didn't understand because Aunt Didi described Rebecca as living in squalor, so just as all children do, Darla asked what squalor meant. As her mother hemmed and hawed, Aunt Didi jumped in to answer. "It's a town in New Mexico, Darla. It's an Indian name." Darla had more questions about the tidbits she'd overheard, but the additional questions were squashed and she was sent to finish some homework. But, of course, Darla couldn't let it go, so a couple weeks later, when having dinner with the Alexanders (Aunt Didi's family) Darla questioned why they couldn't visit Aunt Rebecca, and Uncle George took on the answer. "Darla, listen to me," Uncle George barked. "We don't see your aunt Rebecca because, well, as your aunt Didi says, she lives in Squalor, and knowing Rebecca, you can be damn sure there's no way she'll ever get out. That's it now!" "She could screw her way out!" I said helpfully. Which of course caused a family uproar as Darla had only repeated the words Aunt Didi said. And for awhile, that was it, even though Darla didn't forget about the mysterious aunt who seemed to make her parents edgy every time her name was mentioned. That is until Darla was in the seventh grade, and her enemy Amy Ludwig, whom Darla referred to as Lughead, smugly answered the question of what cities were in New Mexico, but Darla knew she could top her. "I have an aunt who lives in Squalor!" I said proudly, looking right into the Lughead's eyes. Darla was mortified when she found out that, as her teacher put it, "...you'll find squalor in the dictionary, not on the map." Lisette Brodey takes us on a journey into a family where secrets abound and cause untold pain as Darla is growing up because there are so many things which are kept a secret and she feels she is being blamed for Rebecca's mistakes instead of her own. And no matter how hard she tries, she can't seem to get away from the shadow that Rebecca still cast in their lives -- even when no one had heard from her or seen her since before Darla was born. Ultimately, Darla and her three cousins, April, May, and June try to piece together the past to help unlock the present. I'll be honest, when I saw the number of pages listed for the book, my eyes opened a bit as it would be on the long side for a young adult novel. I do know that the novel originally was not intended as a young adult, but does fit in the young adult mold, although can be enjoyed by all ages from young adult on up. So, in a way, I'm glad I read the book on my Kindle because with a Kindle you simply keep on turning the pages, and there isn't the physical reminder of the size of the book (unless you watch the little scroll bar at the bottom). This enabled me to read for the pleasure of it, and I found the story kept pulling me along to the point where I didn't want to stop reading. I wanted to find out exactly what happened in the past and why they allowed the past to cast such a long and all-encompassing shadow over their lives. Brodey does a masterful job of putting us in the mind of Darla McKendrick and we feel her pain as she is growing and maturing into a young woman. Throughout the book are wonderful characters to meet, such as the detestable Uncle Martin and his latest floozy, Maude. By the time you're done reading Squalor, New Mexico, you'll feel as if you are a member of the McKendrick's extended family, who for all their flaws, really do love one another. Definitely a book to check out.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Doreen

    An all time treasured read – so very hard to put down! Squalor, New Mexico is outstanding – a class act story from beginning to end. A masterfully crafted coming-of-age story, my read not only catapulted me immediately into Darla’s world but also, plunged me deeply into memories of my own formative years. Although Squalor is purported by some to be a novel for young adult readers, there is a tonal quality of exceptional maturity to the story that resonates throughout. I highly recommend it for An all time treasured read – so very hard to put down! Squalor, New Mexico is outstanding – a class act story from beginning to end. A masterfully crafted coming-of-age story, my read not only catapulted me immediately into Darla’s world but also, plunged me deeply into memories of my own formative years. Although Squalor is purported by some to be a novel for young adult readers, there is a tonal quality of exceptional maturity to the story that resonates throughout. I highly recommend it for adult readers. With the use of superbly-scripted dialogues embedded within vividly detailed scenes, Brodey kept me wholly engaged with a slew of memorable characters on a roller coaster ride of intrigue and dramatic adventure. So captivated by Darla’s many quests, my out-loud reactions bounced between delightful wonder, scary fear and fascinating respect. In some segments, Darla’s thoughts and actions are so refreshingly like a teenager; in others, however, her self-reflection, curiosity and consequential actions are astoundingly mature. Juxtaposed with Darla’s growth are grown-up levels of maturity that ensue for the adults in her life. Although fifteen year-old Darla is the central character, the shadows cast on everyone by an aunt that she has never met is often center stage. The secrets involving Rebecca have compromised the integrity of the adults in Darla’s life thereby warping their relationships between each other and with their teenage children. Brodey is exceptional in her ability to weave the dramatic pathways that characters must walk in order for them to move through their fears, secrets, guilt, and shame. There are some intense clashes and catastrophic events that held me breathless. Yet, Brodey uses these events to poignantly portray how the characters mature, rub off each others’ rough edges. With expertly designed subtlety, Brodey took me through many chaotic circumstances towards a remarkably heartwarming ending, some unexpected surprises along the way. A special thanks to Ms. Brodey for including a most wonderful character named, Victoria, in your story. She is a gem! This novel is one of my all-time treasured reads – the beauty in its story lingers still.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The story is very current and relevant for today's issues, even though it is set in the 70's. There are many situations that Darla McKendrick faced that I encountered as a child and that my own children may face. It was very interesting to be able to look at these issues as an adult but also relate as a teenager. It also highlighted the fact that we should always try to be as open and honest with our children when asked questions. Having to deal with the answers I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The story is very current and relevant for today's issues, even though it is set in the 70's. There are many situations that Darla McKendrick faced that I encountered as a child and that my own children may face. It was very interesting to be able to look at these issues as an adult but also relate as a teenager. It also highlighted the fact that we should always try to be as open and honest with our children when asked questions. Having to deal with the answers they receive is all part of their growing up and maturing and can only improve their ability to deal with the many adversities life can throw at us. Brodey's ability to create characters that are so real and distinct is a true talent and is very characteristic of all her works. After reading her latest book, 'Molly Hacker Is Too Picky! I went and checked out her other novels. I finished 'Squalor, New Mexico' and I am now currently reading 'Crooked Moon', which I am SO hooked into. So if you are thinking of buying `Squalor, New Mexico', I would say 'Go for it'. Enjoy it like I did. From front cover to back, 5 stars.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Christa

    I read Lisette Brodey’s earlier book CROOKED MOON and liked it. However, the author really outdid herself with SQUALOR, NEW MEXICO, a story which not only appeals to young adults but to all of us. It’s first and foremost the coming of age story of young Darla McKendrick. However, the book asks some deeper questions: How do we deal with uncomfortable truths, lies, and secrets in a family or in society at large? Like most parents, the McKendricks try to “protect” their child from some of the I read Lisette Brodey’s earlier book CROOKED MOON and liked it. However, the author really outdid herself with SQUALOR, NEW MEXICO, a story which not only appeals to young adults but to all of us. It’s first and foremost the coming of age story of young Darla McKendrick. However, the book asks some deeper questions: How do we deal with uncomfortable truths, lies, and secrets in a family or in society at large? Like most parents, the McKendricks try to “protect” their child from some of the unpleasant parts of their family history, only to make her more vulnerable to their damaging effect. Hiding “squalor” does not make it go away and both Darla and her parents and family have to learn this difficult lesson. The novel is both funny and entertaining, sad and tragic at times, and full of wisdom. Beautifully told. Highly recommended!

  29. 5 out of 5

    Christine Lowe

    A Great Book This is a wonderful family drama that is filled with love, hurt, humor and healing. The truth that allows healing is a painful lesson: we are only as sick as our secrets. When those secrets are exposed they no longer have the power to rule our lives. Ms Brodey is a gifted writer who was able to keep me interested as the story unfolds and the family secrets are revealed. There is so much more in this book than just the mystery about Rebecca. I really enjoyed Darla's friendships with A Great Book This is a wonderful family drama that is filled with love, hurt, humor and healing. The truth that allows healing is a painful lesson: we are only as sick as our secrets. When those secrets are exposed they no longer have the power to rule our lives. Ms Brodey is a gifted writer who was able to keep me interested as the story unfolds and the family secrets are revealed. There is so much more in this book than just the mystery about Rebecca. I really enjoyed Darla's friendships with her cousins April, May and June and her best friend, Melanie. All the characters are well written and believable. I hope you'll be interested enough to give Squalor, New Mexico a try.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    This was an interesting and quick read. I enjoyed seeing the characters of Darla and her cousins, April, May and June, mature as the story went on. The family dynamics were very believable, although at times some of the situations the four teenagers were encountering seemed to mirror the lives of their parents a little too closely. Overall, it becomes quite clear that keeping secrets from those you love most can do more harm than good and sometimes even the best intentions can lead to disastrous This was an interesting and quick read. I enjoyed seeing the characters of Darla and her cousins, April, May and June, mature as the story went on. The family dynamics were very believable, although at times some of the situations the four teenagers were encountering seemed to mirror the lives of their parents a little too closely. Overall, it becomes quite clear that keeping secrets from those you love most can do more harm than good and sometimes even the best intentions can lead to disastrous results. As I was reading, I found myself rooting for the family to work through all of their differences and just accept one another - flaws and all - and I was happy to see at the end they were able to forgive and start on the path of healing.

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