Rick Skwiot, author of Christmas at Long Lake, a sensitive memoir of boyhood in the rural poverty of central Illinois, has returned to the genre in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico: Memoir of a Sensual Quest for Spiritual Healing. After Skwiot’s ten-year marriage dissolves, he finds himself lost in what seems a typical mid-life crisis even as he looks down onto Forest Park from a high-rise apartment paid for by his success as a “hack” writer in St. Louis. “What was I to do with my life? What sort of man was I?” He carries the heavy self-doubt of whether he can ever be a “real” writer (of published fiction). He flies to Mexico, a land he has visited before. He remembers the warmth of the people, the earthy spirituality. “Mexico seemed to offer a fecund, soulful existence at a time when life felt sterile and flat.”
Skwiot ends up in the small town of San Miguel de Allende and experiences the ni modo (can’t be helped) philosophy of the native people there as they count their blessings amidst the poverty. He uses observant skills befitting a reporter to study both the surface and the undercurrent of Mexico and its people while tossing in bits of Spanish/Indian/American history that still ripple that culture. Skwiot returns to St. Louis to work (“hoor” himself for) the commercial writing business, saving up for regular returns to his beloved Mexican town.
Rick Skwiot captures the relaxed, tequila atmosphere and warm spiced flavor of 1980’s Mexico, as well as the peculiar stories of both Mexican and gringo friends, in a slow, respectful dance weaving sensuality and spirituality with the rough poverty of a struggling country. Generous handfuls of mostly simple Spanish add a pleasant authenticity to thoughtful and often amusing narrative; but those with no Spanish language skills or who are otherwise unable to discern the meanings will need Google Translate.
San Miguel de Allende is a contemplation of the author’s own drifting life and of American culture as he learns the lessons offered by a foreign land. “At this moment, as advised, I am living inside my body and in the present. I am tasting the wine, drinking in her beauty, sensing whispered wind and beneficent sun on my skin.” The book with the sexy title is alluring, like an exotic, brown-skinned woman shaking loose her tumbling hair, yet doesn’t get so lost in fantasy as to miss the blemishes.
Rick Skwiot now spends his time in the Florida Keys, but fondly remembers the sweet simplicity of growing up long ago near Granite City, IL. The beautifully written Christmas at Long Lake has been re-released and is now in Kindle format.