In Muddy Minutes: Is When Soiled Souls Exist, author Rima Jbara tells a story of an artist overcoming challenges to her integrity and then to her health.
Actress Turquoise Colmenares is famous in her home country of Argentina as well as much of Latin America. When a contract dispute prevents her from working, she must search within to decide what her next move will be. Just as it seems things are improving, she’s faced with a medical diagnosis to reckon with. As Turquoise juggles treatment along with agents and her family, a romance takes root as well.
All of this would be standard romance novel fare, but Jbara writes in an unusual style. The plot is revealed in a series of snippets, each topped by a bolded heading, such as “Unknown Emptiness.” This is then followed by either a scrap of dialogue or thought, an entry from Turquoise’s diary, or an excerpt from the book she’s reading. The longest entry is a few paragraphs, but many are just a line or two.
When done well, this patchwork style can invite readers to envision the story vividly, filling in the spaces from their imagination. Unfortunately, many of these entries are plagued by muddled writing. For example, one diary excerpt reads: “I wonder when the human will rest most. If that human was dead or alive? To me, I find them both worse than each other.” Such convoluted sentences make for slow going.
In addition, the characters are hard to distinguish from one another due to the quick cuts and lack of detail. Turquoise stands out as the protagonist, but her family, business associates and romantic interest appear and disappear so hastily as to leave no distinct impression.
Jbara deserves credit for taking a chance with her experimental approach in this novel. Still, Muddy Minutes needs editing and fleshing out so that readers can more fully engage with Turquoise and her struggles.
Also available as an ebook.