Margaret Tallis wins First Prize in Independent Publisher Awards 2014, memoir

By Jenny Purdue

“November, 2004. It was only eight in the evening on the Day of the Dead, and the women who know about what is not supposed to be known about hovered, seated on the flat stones in front of San Miguel de Allende’s most famous church (La Parroquia)”.

This is the beginning of Margaret Tallis’s memoir The Known: A Canadian Woman’s Experience with Witchcraft in Mexico, which last week was awarded First Prize in the Memoir Category of the Independent Publisher Book Award Prize.

Her book will be automatically considered for the designation of top prize, all categories, Independent Publisher Book Awards, 2014.

The Independent Publisher Book Awards (The “IPPY” Awards) were launched in 1996 and are designed to bring increased recognition to titles published by independent authors and publishers. This year, there were over 4,000 entries.

Tallis’s book takes place in San Miguel de Allende and is set in approximately the first decade she lived here. She was an educated Canadian woman who married an educated Mexican man. If someone had mentioned “witchcraft” to her in those days, she’d have laughed. They had a good life, remodeling a colonial house together, when Tallis’s husband, an architect, started bringing home food from a woman’s house.

“How nice!” Tallis thought. The woman, someone Tallis never met, knew their favorite foods—Mexican as well as non-Mexican. Her husband met the woman’s son while singing in a church choir and had taken an interest in him. “So like him,” Tallis thought, her husband was a gentle man, always thinking of others. But soon after the food starting arriving, her husband changed. He stayed out all night. His behavior became erratic. He became irresponsible and violent. Tallis suspected an affair, alcohol, narcotics.

But as his behavior became more and more unexplainable, so did hers. Tallis saw wavy black lines in the air. She stared at flowers, mesmerized by their colors; she lost weight—her skin stretched tight against the framework of her face. And her husband, hallucinating, no longer in control of his mind, did not recognize her on the street. It was only a visit to a doctor that gave her the answer. She and her husband had been victims of poisoning and witchcraft.

The Known is undoubtedly a suspension of disbelief for the Western-oriented mind, yet it is a true story of the underworld underpinnings of life in San Miguel de Allende and the whole of Mexico.

Tallis never anticipated winning an award for her book and certainly not one as prestigious as this award from the Independent Publisher Book Awards. “For me, it was simply a story that needed to be told,” she says.

Jenny Purdue is an intern at the online literary magazine, SOL: English Writing in Mexico.


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