Monday, June 16, 2008

Tarnished Beauty by Cecelia Samartin

“The world is full of miracles, Mama. All we have to do is find the ones that belong to us.”
[pg 27]

Tarnished Beauty
by Cecelia Samartin

Atria Books, 2008 (ARE)
Fiction; 339 pgs

Jamilet is a naïve and imaginative young woman who carries a burden, an ugly birthmark that stretches from her shoulders, down her back, reaching to the back of her knees. She is ashamed of it and wants nothing more than to be rid of it. All her life, the birthmark has proven to be a curse, earning taunts and stares from her fellow villagers. It is the mark of the devil, some say.

Having reached adulthood and upon the death of her mother, Jamilet leaves behind her small Mexican hometown for the sprawling city of Los Angeles in hopes of finding a doctor who will remove the offending birthmark. She takes up residence with her Aunt Carmen, a woman Jamilet admired as a child. Carmen was a bit of a rebel in her day and one of the only people in Jamilet’s life who rarely gave Jamilet’s birthmark a second thought.

Jamilet takes a job working in an asylum, her only task to watch over and take care of the needs of an elderly man from Spain, Señor Peregrino. Her charge is not an easy man to work with. He is demanding and likes things done just so. She had been instructed not to engage Señor Peregrino in conversation; however, he coaxes her into listening to his life story, a story that soon captivates not only Jamilet but the reader as well. His is a story of love, betrayal and regret. A story Jamilet can relate to in her own way.

Señor Peregrino was as confident and steady as Jamilet was shy and unsure. The two form an unlikely bond. Just as Señor Peregrino set out as a young man on a pilgrimage to discover his fate, Jamilet’s journey to the United States was in a similar vein. Both had expectations and hopes that the road would lead them in one direction, when instead it took them in an entirely different one.

Jamilet’s plight is one most people can relate to, the feeling of being singled out, of being different, and wanting nothing more than to be “normal” and to fit in. Jamilet felt alone in her suffering, not believing anyone would understand what she was going through. She carries her birthmark like a secret, the shame of it always near the surface. I was slightly disappointed that the author did not take this particular story thread farther than she did. Still, I think that Jamilet’s story will appeal to many readers. Her story is not so different than our own in some respects, even if we do not wear the birthmark as she does.

Author Cecilia Samartin has written a heartfelt and bittersweet story. Each time I picked up the book, I looked forward to reading more of Señor Peregrino’s story just as Jamilet came to wanting to hear it. Tarnished Beauty seemed a perfect book choice for a warm spring day—gentle in style and thoughtful in nature.

Rating: * (Good +)

Check out the author’s website for more information.

Read what others had to say about this book:
Bookfoolery and Babble
Not Enough Books


  1. That's a great review, Wendy. The sentence on page 27 is beautiful. I will add this book to my wishlist and I'm sure I'll be getting this one. I like the story.

  2. Sounds like you really enjoyed it! Good review.

  3. Sounds like a winner. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Sounds like something I'd want to read! Thanks for the lovely review, Wendy! :)

  5. This is the second or third very positive review of this one. Looks like it needs to go onto the TBR list.

  6. You know when I first read about this book I wasn't too keen on it but you and some other book bloggers have made me curious! I'll have to add it to the wish list.

  7. Gentle and thoughtful - I like that. Thanks for another lovely review :)

  8. Thanks for the great review--I recently read about this one on someone else's site--perhaps Bookfool? It sounds very intriguing--and I agree with Nymeth that gentle and thoughtful sounds very nice.

  9. Alice - Thank you! I love that quote from the book. :-)

    Jen, Kristy, Melody & Suzi - Thanks! I did enjoy this one. I do wish the author added a bit more to one part of the story, but it was still an enjoyable book overall.

    Iliana - I wasn't too sure at first either to be honest, but it turned out to be a pleasant surprise.

    Nymeth - Thank you! Gentle and thoughtful seems to be a fitting description, I think. :-)

    Trish - Thanks! It probably was Bookfool's review. She really liked this one, probably a smidgen more than I did.

  10. I have this one that I need to read and review also. I have heard great things about it, so need to get in gear and get on it. Great review!

  11. Seeing others review it was what finally motivated me to pull this one off the shelf and read it. I hope you enjoy it, April.

  12. Sounds like a really interesting book. Will keep ay eye out for it. Thanks for the review, this is one I hadn't heard of before.

  13. Rhinoa - I hope you enjoy it if you do decide to read it.

  14. Great review! Now I want to read this book, too. I'd love to win it. Thanks for the giveaway.


Thank you for taking the time to visit Musings of a Bookish Kitty. Don't be shy! I would love to hear from you. Due to a recent increase in spam, I will be moderating all comments for the foreseeable future. Please be patient with me as it may take a few hours before I am able to approve your comment.