Family Lineage and Bathroom Psychotic Breaks
Mexican Eskimo Book 1: Exmikan
Mexican Eskimo Book 1: Exmikan is, at its core, a story of lineage and the weight we carry from previous generations. Telling his story through intertwining narratives and over the span of several decades, Frankoni takes the reader on a surprisingly captivating and, at times, crushingly sad journey through his family history. But he never shies away from the very real undertones of judgment and anger that a bloodline can sometimes carry.
The book begins with a story of a boy from an unknown Arctic tribe who is fighting for his life and enduring a torturous fever. While he struggles to resist death’s calling, the boy’s grandmother performs a sort of ceremony to beckon life back into him and heal him of his ailments. This perceived memory, or “dream travel,” makes way for the story of one man’s life. That story becomes an intersecting and serendipitous tale of a restaurant owner’s premonition of romantic fate, a rectal dysfunction, lustful love, domestic violence, vehicular death and eventually how all of the characters relate to one another.
Because the stories are so passably real, I found myself more genuinely interested in the characters—they felt like real people experiencing real things.
It’s not entirely clear if some of the stories found in Mexican Eskimo are from Frankoni’s real life or not, but some stories, like a demonic beast that consumes a character named Anne so profoundly she fears for her life, play on the mythical undertones throughout the book. Because the stories are so passably real, I found myself more genuinely interested in the characters—they felt like real people experiencing real things. What builds momentum to a psychotic break in the bathroom of JJ’s bar after a few too many Irish coffees is the sometimes believable and other times impractical tales of how Frankoni himself came to be on this earth.
Frankoni’s approach to storytelling demands that the reader pay very close attention to every detail, every clue, leading up to the final introduction of his present-day life—a life that is consumed by tragedy, by overwhelming and unfiltered love for the people he calls his family, coupled with disbelief and inherited pain from both his mother and his father’s life experiences. And while the long-windedness of the book can be challenging at first, it is not entirely in vain. Fast-paced despite its length, it creates a momentum that compels the reader to absorb the impression of each carefully illustrated character in a way that is both meaningful and, not unlike real-life relationships, at times exhausting.
Perhaps most striking about Mexican Eskimo is Frankoni’s ability to speak from the perspective of so many different people. Shifting from roughness to tenderness throughout the entire book creates a hyper-emotional landscape that is both intelligent and captivating.
My literary inclinations don’t often lean towards verbose or crude storytelling, but I must admit it was difficult to let go of this story. As I read, I only wanted more answers. Answers that might touch on how we survive death and pain and how we might make sense of perceived memories. How tracing the lineage of your dysfunctional family is dark and terrifying, but still is your family’s story. And no amount of guilt or sadness will rewrite that story.
Perhaps most striking about Mexican Eskimo is Frankoni’s ability to speak from the perspective of so many different people. Shifting from roughness to tenderness throughout the entire book creates a hyper-emotional landscape that is both intelligent and captivating. And although several characters are very difficult to like, he manages to give them a voices that are somehow relatable, in spite of very obvious shortcomings.
What makes this book feel more like a tangible piece of art is the gorgeous cover illustration and various illustrations throughout, done by Kelly Puissegur. Puissegur’s depictions of Frankoni’s story are exquisitely complementary to his earnest attempt to come to terms with his life’s history and yet preserve the reader’s desire to imagine each character for themselves.
As a self-published book, Mexican Eskimo Book 1: Exmikan is exceptionally well put together and beautiful to both look at and experience. And although I do not think Frankoni’s long-windedness was unintentional, I think it was the book’s only downfall, taking away from some of the more immaculately crafted paragraphs. The pace of the book moves rapidly, and with so many unfolding stories it can become overwhelming as a reader. That being said, Mexican Eskimo is the type of book that undoubtedly reminds the reader how incredibly human we all are, and how impossible it is that we arrived on this earth at all.