Prime Meridian by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

“There are only two plots... A person goes on a journey and a stranger comes into town." 

No stranger comes to Mexico City in this new novella by chameleon writer Silvia Moreno-Garcia, but an estranged lover does come back to Amelia’s life, someone she thought she would never see again. They reconnect but there are no emotional explosions or a Great Love Story to experience. Instead, it is just one more thing happening to Amelia, just another event in a sequence of events that has defined her life since she has left college to help take care of her sick mother.

Trapped in Mexico City—a Mexico City of a near-future in which space exploration is a thing and there is a colony on Mars—Amelia endures. Carries on. Day after day. Doing the odd job here and there, trying to get enough money to live and pay bills. She shares a tiny flat with her sister and her sister’s two kids. She sometimes works as a friend-for-rent for the lonely and unwanted but Amelia is not particularly nice or beautiful and her jobs are far in between. She sometimes sells blood, giving her young plasma to the wealthy ones who want to feel young again. Which is ironic, since Amelia feels like she is 50 even though she is only 25. She has a couple of close friends with whom she doesn’t have anything in common anymore. Her older lover comes back to town and she resumes their relationship even though she knows this is a terrible idea.

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There is one thing though: Amelia still allows herself to dream of Mars.

The planet Mars that, in this alternate timeline, has already been colonised and offers opportunities for those daring to dream. A Mars of movies and imagination, of hope and new beginnings. And Amelia hopes to go on that journey one day.

One of her elderly, lonely clients, Lucía, is someone Amelia grows incredibly fond of as time passes. The two spend their time together watching the movies that Lucía once starred in. One of them is set on Mars, complete with costumes, sexism, and b-movie ridiculousness. But as they watch that and other movies, Amelia and Lucía bond, forming the most important relationship in the novella.

And it’s in that bond, that beautiful, completely unexpected bond, that the heart of the novel lies: in the communion between these two women, separated by age but united in their seemingly hopeless passions.    

Prime Meridian is a morose story, steeped in routine, and full of an ennui I very rarely see experienced by women characters. But one thing I have come to learn (and even talked about before in this space) is to expect the unexpected from Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s offerings. Every single one of them different from one another but they share that lingering sense of accomplishment, of giving voices to women who would not otherwise be heard or seen. Amelia is one of them and I loved seeing her.      

In Booksmugglerish: 8 out of 10