There’s a feeling of “you had to be there” with Brooke Martellaro’s ‘Why You No Scream Viva?!’

Travel narratives are popular and fun to write because everyone thinks his or her vacation is incredibly interesting and that every reader will want to read the tale. With Brooke Martellaro’s Why You No Scream Viva?! My Big Mexican Adventure That Taught Me How to Live, Love, and Laugh Again, readers are taken on a sporadically funny story of how a woman looks to a Mexican resort town to heal her from a traumatic breakup. It’s not that Martellaro isn’t a good writer – she’s a serviceable scribe, who can put together a decent story with some laughs, but too much of the book feels like a somewhat flaccid anecdote that ends with a deflated, “you had to be there.”

Some will recall Elizabeth Gilbert’s better Eat, Pray, Love. Martellaro finds herself bruised by a terrible breakup. It was a long-term relationship, which explains the depth of her sorrow. It’s when she writes of her breakup that the book shines best, and it’s a shame that she didn’t devote more space to her pain and recuperation. There are glimpses of a darker, but more substantial story in her awful breakup, that cause her to well up at random moments, at seemingly innocuous stimulants.

Armed with her best friend, Kim, Martellaro travels to Playa del Carmen – a resort town in Mexico, where she lives it up and falls in love with her surroundings. Taking a page from Diane Lane’s character in Under the Tuscan Sun, Martellaro decides she wants to live in Playa del Carmen, and buys a condo on the beach. To make money, she starts a fledgling property management business and meets the obligatory colorful characters that populate books about foreign countries – though, interestingly enough, the majority of the other players in Why You No Say Viva?! are American expats or tourists.

I’ll give up a little of the ending when I say that Martellaro’s business venture doesn’t go as well as planned. But that’s not surprising, given the seemingly rash and impetuous way she came to her decision to move. This move comes from the kind of freedom that is afforded by having some financial comfort. But instead of being inspired, readers will shake their head in concern at Martellaro’s decision-making. She doesn’t speak Spanish, nor does she have experience in property management (she’s inspired to join the industry when learning of the exorbitant prices property managers charge). There’s a naiveté to her plans that is at-times pretty infuriating.

None of this will matter though to Martellaro’s intended audience – the same folks who gobbled up Eat, Pray, Love. For those, this book delivers – it’s a tale of a woman deciding what to do with her life, and then going ahead and doing it. Obviously, most of her readers aren’t in a position to just up and leave – she came from a corporate job and without children, she didn’t have the cement block-like ties that most women do; but these concerns seem almost churlish in face of a book that tries so earnestly to achieve its goal of being inspiring and uplifting. Martellaro can be a funny writer – there are some laugh out-loud passages in her book – especially in reference to the title (a quote from a resort employee that the author ran into). And her relationship with Kim is wonderful and great to read (though Kim runs dangerously close to being a one-dimensional “best girlfriend” type that Judy Greer seems to always play in movies); their exchanges are especially amusing.  Their conversations illustrate Martellaro’s not insignificant knack for dialogue – something she should strengthen if she continues to write.

Click here to buy Brooke Martellaro’s Why You No Scream Viva?! My Big Mexican Adventure That Taught Me How to Live, Love, and Laugh Again on amazon.com.

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Filed under Book, Humor Essay Collection, Memoir, Travel

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