Monday 4 April 2022

There Will Be Consequences by Loretta Miles Tollefson

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Fictional Drama / Fictional Biography
19th century

Setting the historical context for her book, set in Nuevo Mexico when it was still a Mexican state, author Loretta Miles Tollefson explains:

In early August 1837, rebellion broke out in New Mexico, thirty miles north of the capital at Santa Fe. The insurrection was triggered by the impending implementation of a Federal sales tax as well as changes to the Mexican Constitution, modifications that moved power from individual communities and placed it more firmly in the hands of the federal government, President Antonio López de Santa Anna, and New Mexico Governor Albino Pérez.’

The rebellion would last 5 months. There Will Be Consequences is a novel of this rebellion, told as a chronological narrative of the events from twelve different points of view, each of an historical person caught up in those events. Some, like Pérez, are upholding the federal government’s laws; some are active rebels; some are people caught in the middle. These changing viewpoints, coupled with the third-person-present voice, give the book a cinematic feel, the story unfolding for us as if from a film-maker's lens.

Tollefson makes the many facets of the rebellion clear through the voices and thoughts of her characters. Not just a rebellion against a sales tax seen as unfair, or the centralization of political power in distant Mexico City, divisions of class and race also contributed to the unrest and violence. Power and political preferment was given to men of Spanish ancestry; they too held most of the best farmland. The indigenous population had been in some cases enslaved, their land taken from them, and those of mixed ancestry navigated the space between, their success often related to the lightness of their skin. 

These attitudes are woven into the story, presented through the eyes of the changing main characters, but this is not a polemic. Tollefson has done extensive research while acknowledging that written histories are not free of bias; her interpretations of the facts are not always theirs. By giving voice to this wide range of historical characters, expressing their motivations, pride, fear, doubts, the author has created an immersive fictionalized history of a period I knew next to nothing about. 

My only real niggle with the book is a sameness of voice among many of the characters. But, coupled with brief but evocative descriptions of the New Mexican landscape, the judicious use of Spanish words and geographical names, and glimpses into the mundane as well as significant events of characters’ lives, Tollesfon shows us both how a little-known rebellion of the early 19th century unfolded, and gives us food for thought about how simmering resentments against a distant central government can flare into revolt. Recommended. 

Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds 

© Marian Thorpe
 e-version reviewed

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