The Earthquake Machine
The book every girl should read,
and every girl’s parents hope she’ll never read.
The Earthquake Machine tells the story of 14 year-old Rhonda. On the outside, everything looks perfect in Rhonda’s world, but at home Rhonda has to deal with a manipulative father who keeps her mentally ill mother hooked on pharmaceuticals. The only reliable person in Rhonda’s life is her family’s Mexican yardman, Jesús. But when the INS deports Jesús back to his home state of Oaxaca, Rhonda is left alone with her increasingly painful family situation.
Determined to find her friend Jésus, Rhonda seizes an opportunity to run away during a camping trip with friends to Big Bend National Park. She swims to the Mexican side of the Rio Grande and makes her way to the border town of Milagros, Mexico. There a peyote- addled bartender convinces her she won’t be safe traveling alone into the country’s interior. So with the bartender’s help, Rhonda cuts her hair and assumes the identity of a Mexican boy named Angel. She then sets off on a burro across the desert to look for Jesús. Thus begins a wild adventure that fulfills the longing of readers eager for a brave and brazen female protagonist.
Mary Pauline Lowry has worked as a forest firefighter, screenwriter, open water lifeguard, construction worker, and advocate in the movement to end violence against women. Due to no fault of her sweet parents, at 15 she ran away from home and made it all the way to Matamoros, Mexico. She believes girls should make art, have adventures, and read books that show them the way.
When I was writing THE EARTHQUAKE MACHINE I lived in a rented basement room at the Desert Rose Horse Ranch outside of Durango, Colorado. I’d wake up before dawn everyday to work on my novel, and then I’d go to work all day as an apprentice carpenter.
Now I knew nothing about carpentry, or working construction, but my boss hired me anyway; he knew I loved to read all kinds of books and he figured I’d be fun to talk to while we were working all day.
My boss was a giant, Viking of a man named David. He’s almost fifteen years older than I am but STILL everyone always thought I was his girlfriend. When people asked if we were dating he would always yell, “GROSS! She’s young enough to be my daughter!” I always loved him for that.
David taught me how to swing a hammer, run a skihl saw, chop saw and table saw. Together we built fences and framed houses in the freezing cold and snow of Colorado winters.
Being a construction worker was the perfect writer job. I could put all my writing energy into my early morning time and I know I wouldn’t be stuck at a computer doing something boring for the rest of the day.
Now that I’m back in my hometown of Austin, TX, I miss my carpenter boss David. But we still talk on the phone; and he always sends me great postcards when he goes to Europe to visit his daughter Caitlyn who is studying abroad for her junior year of college.
I’m going to mail David a copy of THE EARTHQUAKE MACHINE soon. I can’t wait to hear what he thinks of the book!