The queen of water is a basically true story of Virginia, a Quichua girl of Ecuador, born in a poor mountain village. At the age of seven, Virginia is given to a mestizo couple to care for their little boy--supposedly for a monthly salary and with frequent visits home. (In Ecuador, mestizo generally means people who are not indigenous, or of Native American origin.) But Virginia finds that she is really their slave, expected to do whatever they tell her. The woman beats her often, especially at first, and the couple tell her that her family doesn't want her anymore. As Virginia grows older, she teaches herself to read from the textbooks they bring home and forgets her own language.
One of the fascinating things about this book is how it shows people just as they are, with all their faults, and yet Virginia manages to love them anyway. Her family is shown clearly--careworn and dirty--living in a hut with fleas, lice and bedbugs. For a long time, she loves the family that has imprisoned her and can't imagine leaving, in spite of the cruelty and lack of freedom. But one day, as she considers escaping, she looks around and realizes that, with all the photos in the house, there is not a single one of her. And at another point, even though she is still repelled by her family's hut, she moves back there--freedom is more important than cleanliness. Frequently I found myself asking myself what I would have done--sometimes it seems easy to condemn Virginia's choices, but mostly they all seem horribly scary and hard.
The real miracle is that Virginia never gives up. Difficult decisions come one after the other in her life, yet Virginia navigates them all with a wisdom that seems beyond her years. This amazing woman tells her story in funny, sad and triumphant moments that are never boring and frequently thought-provoking. ~Tessa Eger 4.5 out of 5 stars