Cover Image: Desert Flowers

Desert Flowers

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Member Reviews

Great story by Paul Pen.  Really thrilling read, great characters and an enjoyable story.  Highly recommend to others!!
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a very well crafted and written novel about a family, secrets and figuring it all out. I found it a great read that kept me interested throughout it!
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Classification: Mystery, Fiction, Drama, Suspense
Release Date: August 8, 2017

I received his book free for review from Netgalley. I have sat on my review for this one for a week and I am still not really sure how I feel about it. This is about a family that lives in the desert, fully isolated from any other neighbors or town. One day a stranger shows up at their door who they are hesitant about. The story just continues on from there. This seemed to me to be a fast paced thriller which I was really in the mood for when I started this one. My expectations weren't quite met, it ended up being a slow paced character build. I still enjoyed the book and I didn't feel let down once the story started to progress. I enjoyed the twist but I didn't enjoy the fact there was no clear closure. That is just my taste specifically so it most likely won't affect your experience unless that is something that bothers you as well. I still say to check this one out if you are interested. It was a very different story from anything else I have ever read and the story is very atmospheric.
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This book is quite an emotionally demanding book. It is about a family living in  the middle of nowhere with minimal interaction with others. They are a close knit family until they have a stranger living amongst them. At this point all their secrets are out in the open. 
I was emotionally heavily vested in this book.
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"Rose and Elmer have created an idyllic sanctuary for themselves and their five daughters in Mexico’s Baja California desert. Out there in the middle of nowhere, blissfully cut off from the burdens of modern society, they’re free to raise their beautiful family…and preserve its secret."

It took awhile for me to really get into the story but once I did, it had me gasping in shock when the plot pivoted suddenly and then I couldn't put it down. I hated having to go to bed last night, and finished reading on the commute to work this morning.

The less you know about the story, the better your enjoyment.

HIGHLY recommended for mystery and thriller fans.
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Desert Flowers

My first Paul Pen read, Desert Flowers is an absorbing tale, full of twists and turns that mess with your head that little bit!

Pen has created a beautifully descriptive tale that built some vivid images in my head, I felt I was there in the desert with the characters. With some dark twists and turns, I really enjoyed this book. Four stars from purplebookstand.
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Wow, what a secret this family is hiding!

The story starts out with the day to day life of Rose and Elmer and their four daughters all named after flowers. They seem to be a normal family other than the fact they live in the middle of nowhere. 

When a stranger happens upon their land one day, they treat him with kindness and allow him to spend the night. His ever increasing questions, however, have them considering their choice. Was it a mistake to let the stranger into their household?

Oh yeah, this secret was a jaw dropping one. I did not see it coming, at all.

A thrilling read that I sped through, especially towards the end.

Thanks to AmazonCrossing and Net Galley for providing me with a free e-galley in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.
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While the book did not meet my expectations, I don't regret reading it. After reading the blurb, I was expecting kind of like a thriller or mystery story, but this was more like a family/coming-of-age drama.

The plot was interesting, but not exactly overwhelming. However, I absolutely LOVED the writing, which totally made up for every flaw I found, like the totally ridiculous and unbelievable older sister that really got on my nerves or some non-credible plot twists that seemed too constructed.
But. Each time I started worrying about such things, I lost myself in the writing (again) and then didn't bother at all... I guess my favorite parts actually were those where nothing much happened, like the vivid descriptions of the desert or the quiet 'everyday' moments.

So while the story was OK, the real strength of the book is the incredibly beautiful writing - thanks not only to the author, but also to the great translation by Simon Bruni.
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A story about  and told from the perspective of four girls raised in an isolated Mexican desert. A stranger shows up and figures out what the parents are up to. This is a literary novel that may not be for everyone.
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Rose is a loving mother and a devoted wife to Elmer.  They have four girls all with very different personalities.  Iris is the bookworm in the family and reaching sexual awakening. Melissa is a little different with her penchant for collecting and talking to rocks.  Daisy and Dahlia are twins who have a habit of repeating what the other has said.
Rick is a young hiker looking for a little company after leading a solitary existence for the last month.  Little do Rose and Elmer know he has a hidden agenda and a tie to their family.  Their idea of a happy family is about to change into something more sinister.  The girl’s parents have their own secrets and will do anything to keep their family intact
This story evoked a mixture of emotions even to the extent of almost having a tear in my eye at one stage.  I feel if I read this a second time I would absorb more than I did the first time round.
Some may find this a little slow to start but I felt it made the perfect backdrop for following events.  Initially I was lulled into thinking this was going to be a feel good read and was absolutely taken by surprised when everything changed within a short time.
All the characters were believable and fit together in a very interesting way.  At the end I couldnt decide if I liked or despised Rose and Elmer.  I know good people some times do bad things but............
The translation from Spanish seems well done.  Using the Baja California desert in Mexico was a super idea and even now, thinking about needles on a cactus makes me cringe.
I think this book deserves a lot more than the general fiction label it was given as it seemed to be a mix of genres.  Read it and make your own decision.  You wont be disappointed.
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Paul Pen's novel "Desert Flowers," translated by Simon Bruni, begins with a simple, natural, and graceful flow of narration as--and for that matter stands as--an overwhelming and sometimes frightening testimony to family and parental love, no matter the cost or parents involved.  Daily routines, though sometimes seeming a trifle eccentric to one or the other of the family's members, are the accepted currency from each of them to the others, the things they are teased about or provoked into sharing and demonstrating.  And though romantic love "like that in the novels" between individuals, whether younger or older, is featured as a corollary subject, it is made to seem smaller, less compelling, and in the end less significant in some respects, than the deep and abiding love that a child and parent (or the two parents of a child) have for each other, even when one or both are in the wrong.

"Desert Flowers," named for the mother and five daughters at the center of the novel's focus, all of whom have floral names, is also a tense and original suspense novel, one which manages to paint in the hues and tones of mystery here and there amidst the familial picture as it develops.  It is possible almost to breathe in the sere desert air, to observe the changes of morning, night, sunrise, twilight, to sense the quotidian dangers of the plants and animals around about, to live with the characters in their pictured surroundings as the prose first pauses, then races ahead, then takes a moment to accustom the reader to variations of momentum and balance as quickly changing as a desert sky and as awe-inspiring.  After a heart-stopping opening prelude introducing the parents, Rose and Elmer, at night, when they at first believe (prophetically enough) that there is an intruder in the house, we change to a slow adagio of a first movement, which blends various repeated melodies of the family's daily harmonious routines, making them seem uncharacteristically bland at first by comparison with Rose's initial panic, which smacks more of the usual self-proclaimed suspense novel.  When the reader has been kept waiting a bit impatiently to find out the cause of her alarm for a sufficient period of time in which to wonder about Rose herself, however, the pace quickens suddenly and unexpectedly with the addition of a different theme, the always exciting and heightened theme of a stranger appearing without warning in the center of the family group when Elmer is away from home.

As with many real situations, the characters Rose, Elmer, and the young stranger, Rick, end up playing a game with each other in their struggles to one-up the opponent without departing from the strictures of good manners and seemly deportment.  But little by little, a second movement of the piece develops after an interlude of time when Rick is trying to piece together clues about his host and hostess and their family, almost as if he has some reason or other to find them suspect.  In this second movement, it is rather Rick who emerges as the questionable party for a time, and we follow his footsteps as he does things which do not suggest that he is a good guest, or at least not one without flaw.

To continue the metaphor of a piece of music, the third movement is a movement of secrets half-revealed, with all three of the adults participating in the jumps of logic and understanding taking place, a movement of back-and-forth recriminations and accusations, whether made silently in the quiet of the desert night and one's own mind, or in the daylight confrontations amongst the three of them.  Though the book has been an interesting and pleasurable read up until now, it is this movement which produces that frisson of luxurious fear in the readers' minds, and a temptation to start choosing sides.  But that must not be yet, for there are two more movements to come, and compelling reasons why all three adults are vital and worthwhile beings.

The fourth movement is one of quick and unanswerable violence and retribution, yet exactly who is being punished?  The answer is not as obvious as it might otherwise seem to be, as even the children come in for their share of the suffering, however unnecessary or undeserved.

The fifth movement is one full of surprises, not only plot twists and a final, rewarding fictional ending that has elements both of justice served and of a cliff-hanger; there are also surprises, here at the very end, in some of the characters, whom one might otherwise have thought of as already developed.

All in all, this is a fine work of what one must after all call literary suspense fiction, since it has both the evocative and lovely language of the portraiture of the characters' surroundings and the terse, carefully underwritten language of the literary thriller.  It's not often that a book which starts out so very innocently and wholesomely, with a family's daily concerns and small victories and challenges, has one unable to stop turning pages by a little before the middle of the text, but so it is here.  I would recommend it to anyone who truly enjoys literary suspense.
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Four sisters living with their parents in the middle of the Mexican desert: Iris is 16, boy crazy, and romantic from reading too many romance books, Melissa wants friends so desperately she creates them out of rocks and cacti, and the twins Daisy and Dahlia who are forced to take turns being the same person when the school teacher comes for class. Into this situation comes Rick, a traveling young man who works hard to find ways to not be forced to leave. What he is looking for and what the family are hiding is more than a reader might expect and the extremes to which various people are willing to go to for what they want is surprising. As many of my favorite books do, this one doesn't end tied up in a nice pretty package, making for a slightly uncomfortable but pleasing read.
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I enjoyed the characters from this book specially the twins. I wasn't happy with the ending.
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I have had an affinity for Baja California for years, and read just about anything I can find about this gorgeous part of the world. A family is threatened by a stranger who enters their secluded life in the Mexican desert. You can almost smell the desert and its intriguing atmosphere in this well written book.
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I received this book via Netgalley thanks to the publisher; AmazonCrossing in exchange for an honest opinion.  

After reading this book I was left with an emotional ache, one that was tingled with sadness and happiness that clashed together, a definite sign that this book is an absorbing and addictive general fiction novel which deserves five stars and more. 

I know for sure after reading this book, I will be reading other books by Paul Pen and hoping that they are as gripping as Desert Flowers.
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Beautifully descriptive and wonderfully imagined, this kept me spellbound to the end. I could smell the desert flowers and dust and see the beauty in the landscape and hear the laughter of the children. The story told mostly from the point of view by the children, unfolds slowly as the middle daughter learns the dark truth about her parents. This is the first book by this author that I have read and now can't wait to read his first book.
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Elmer and his wife, Rose, live in a remote dessert of Baja California. They have 4 daughters, all named for flowers, but keep the girls away from their Spanish speaking neighbors. The girls are taught at home by a retired local teachers. The two older girls alternate traveling into town with their Dad once a month for food. However, except for their teacher, Socorro, the girls' contact with the outside world is limited. Also most of the others in their area speak Spanish, a language that the girls were never taught. 

The family had lost an older daughter a few years before. However their lives changed dramatically when a young man appeared at the house asking for a place to spend the night and relax from his exhaustive hikes.

This is a psychological thriller and may have the reader eagerly reading to find out what happens next. I found the ending very disturbing. I would have given the book higher grades if I did not feel so let down by the ending.
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Paul Pen creates a surreal atmosphere set in the desert in Mexico. 

A family of five daughters and their parents live in a house in the middle of nowhere. They don't ever travel into town in groups. One at a time, once a month for supplies. They create their own world of books and rocks and cactus turned into friends. As the living oldest daughter starts to grow up she struggles against the isolation and just wants the romance she reads about in her books.

A stranger makes his way on foot to their isolated location and soon his secrets and theirs start to unfold. When this happens you need to be seriously prepared to dedicate the time to finish this book in one sitting. It will grab hold of you and not let go.
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“People are almost never what they seem.” 

In this case, sadly the book wasn’t quite what it seemed either. Per the placeholder “review” below, you can see proof of why it is important to have good titles, pretty covers and clever synopsis in order to hook readers. Especially a reader like me who doesn’t even bother reading a whole blurb before hitting the request or one-click buttons or running straight to the nearest cash register. 

When I glossed over the summary for Desert Flowers the following jumped out at me . . . . 

themselves and their five daughters 

middle of nowhere 

young hiker 

must do what they can to protect themselves 

And my brain convinced me it would be a bit like The Strangers which would have me running and screaming at every strange noise I heard in my house for the next week and a half.  Without spoiling things, please note this book was NOTHING LIKE THAT. Obviously I have to take a portion of the blame for this being such a fail for me. However, when there is absolutely ZERO character development – other than kind of a squicky “farmer’s daughter” type of vibe, no explanation of the why behind the main plot point and a story that could have easily been told as a 50-page novella since it absolutely no depth beyond surface level, I refuse to give more than 1 Star.  The only bright side was it was so simplistic I read it in a couple of hours. 

ARC provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you, NetGalley!
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The book was a little slow in the beginning to engage in but became more fascinating as i continued reading along.  This is not the type of book that i like to read but i found that i couldn't put it down. This was a very strange family (the parents were terrible and vicious)  and i truly felt terrible about what was done to Rick. I did like how the book ended.
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