The Queen of Water
By Laura Resau & María Virginia Farinango
Delarcorte /Random House • 2011 • 352 pages
Ages 12 and up
From a very young age, María Virginia Farinango experienced a heartbreaking journey to becoming an adult. Her fortitude is an inspiration, and she deserves kudos for sharing her story. Laura Resau should likewise be lauded for her ability to tease out a tale so intricate and fraught with devastation, while allowing the protagonist’s heart to shine through.
The authors make an amazing storytelling team, allowing readers to witness first-hand the life of a girl simply trying to find her own place in the world.
The story begins when seven-year-old Virginia is given as a servant to a family belonging to the Ecuadorian ruling class (mestizos). Doctorita and Niño Carlitos (as she is required to call them) seem to hold her future in their hands. Virginia acts as a mother to their children and is confined to the family’s living quarters. She lives a mostly horrific life consisting of abuse of all kinds. But Virginia’s curiosity and strong will lead her to make good decisions: she teaches herself to read and write, learns to find joy in the little things, attracts the attention of a first crush, and even receives her first kiss.
When Doctorita becomes pregnant with her third child and the family decides to move to Ibarra, Virginia’s life goes into a tailspin once more. As a teenager, Virginia is reunited with her family and realizes that although her situation is less than ideal, her village life would not be much better. Despite the odds and difficulties presented by the possibilities of leaving both her life as a servant and her village behind, Virginia stays focused, puts one foot in front of the other, and discovers a freedom she is ill-equipped to define. When she is crowned “Queen of Water,” readers witness Virginia coming into her own completely.
Resau and Farinango sum up the meaning of this best: “I see that if you try to fit someone in a box, she might slip through the seams like water and become her own river.” Farinango’s story and Resau’s words seep into your life, grab a hold, take you on a memorable journey, and never let go.
—Reviewed by Marietta B. Zacker, Book Curator at Sparkhouse in South Orange, NJ