Review: The Godma’s Daughters

Reading this book was like being on a rollercoaster: dipping in and out of the past, present, and future; letting you catch glimpses of the drop coming ahead; ending right back where it started. It was a dizzyingly fast read despite being a rather long one!

The Godma’s Daughters by Isabella Ides is the story of Mocheela A’chimal and her life, both in the border town of Trescabras and the life she lives in her grandmother’s story. When her cousin, Lilliana, comes to live with them and their two’s company becomes a crowd of three, it is not just the beginning of their lives together as they grow up but their history together as CocoMocheela and LilyHá, their spirit sisters whose stories unfold alongside their own. Never has ‘parallels’ been a more appropriate word for what happens in this story. There’s burro mayors and Maya jade and cenotes as the centerpieces of this novel and the antics, more like adventures, of Lilliana and Mocheela are caught up in the unveiling of their grandmother, Máhkina’s, grand epic. You’ll learn some things about Maya culture and beliefs, and even pronunciation, and the worlds a border woman crosses on her journey. 

What I enjoyed the most about this book was Lilliana; her entrance is unapologetic in disturbing the tranquil balance of Mocheela’s life, but she elbows her way into Mocheela’s good graces with that very same brash and honest edge. She’s an artist with an eye for design and she’s determined to make a name for herself, a drive that feels grounded despite the usually lofty ambitions that come with that goal. She’s not afraid to stand up and bite back nor of flying too close to the sun; I sympathized with Mocheela in both admiring and being afraid for her at the same time. 

It’s a very feminist-themed book; Mákhina tells legends about the Godma, Ixmukháne, and the core of many of Mocheela’s interactions and lessons from her grandmother are on the idea of a secret history that has been buried and forgotten on the important role of women in Maya society and religion. 

I’d recommend The Godma’s Daughters to anyone who likes monkeys, coming-of-age stories, and the power of the guaya pit.

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