Land of Enchantment by Leigh Stein
Despite having not been to the Land of Enchantment myself, New Mexico has been on my pop culture radar this year, mostly through Netflix marathons of Roswell, Breaking Bad, and Better Call Saul. Naturally, I picked up Leigh Stein’s memoir, Land of Enchantment, interested in someone ‘s take on New Mexico.
Stein’s memoir is about her relationship with her abusive ex-boyfriend, with whom she spontaneously moved to Albuquerque where they lived for 6 months. Those 6 months in New Mexico were clearly pivotal to name the entire memoir after the state’s nickname. Stein writes with a casual flair that’s easy to read. Given that she’s writing about her relationship with an abusive boyfriend, the casualness is at times disconcerting. It is very clear that writing this memoir was cathartic for her, especially given that the book starts with her abusive ex’s funeral (motorcycle crash) and her examination of their relationship in light of his death. Honestly, this book would have benefited greatly had Stein wrote it in another 5-10 years with the more refined perspective that comes with age and life experience.
The title of the book itself comes across as a cheap marketing ploy, because the book isn’t so much about New Mexico, it’s about Stein’s relationship with her ex. New Mexico is very secondary and really, the setting for just a handful of chapters in the book. On one hand, Stein’s abusive boyfriend isolated her by not allowing her to drive anywhere in Albuquerque; on the other hand, her descriptions of New Mexico from later solo adventures without the boyfriend are not that vivid beyond tourist-y blurbs you’d get on Yelp, TripAdvisor, etc. This was disappointing, since New Mexico was what attracted me to the book. If you are truly in need of a good book that takes place in and throughout New Mexico, I recommend Kirstin Valdez Quade’s Night at the Fiestas.