Saturday, October 24, 2015

We Never Asked For Wings - Vanessa Diffenbaugh: Book Review

I had a hard time getting to like this book. I heard quite some good things about it, but it was a bit slow for me. I liked the characters, and the realistic way the story was presented, but for some reason me and the novel didn't click as I hoped. 

The novel is the story of Lisa, a mom who was absent from her children's lives from the moment they were born. The children were raised by Lisa's mother, but now that Lisa's parents went back to Mexico she is left to take care of herself and her children. The oldest, Alex, is 16 years old, falling in love for the first time with a class-mate of his. The youngest, Luna, is 6 years old and is desperate for love and misses her grandmother a lot. Alex is interested in birds and using his grandfather's birds feather collection he hopes to make a science project worthy of an award at the new school he and his sister attend. Since he grew up without a father, Alex is curious to meet him. He does and a new relationship is brought into his life, with its ups and downs. To testing is subjected even his relationship with Yesnia, his girlfriend.

The characters are always very intense. It felt like Lisa was always on the verge of a meltdown, while Alex felt out of place almost anywhere, except when he was with Yesnia or working on his feathers project. I think it was the characters that made the book harder to read (I was on holiday mood, so I think this explains it...) because they are not easy-cheesy ones. They are real and (I hate the cliche!) raw - Carmen, Yesnia's mother, and Lisa are two mothers struggling to make things right for their kids. There are some passages describing how exactly they handle life as moms. Not to mention the immigration issues brought up throughout the novel. Add to this Lisa's budding relationship with her boyfriend and also how she fits Alex's dad into their family is probably a close picture of the way single moms try to create a normal, and showing that there is no "one way" to handle life.

This is not an easy book, nor is it a vacation book. It needs you to stay put and just carry on reading; it's the only way you can "get" it and its characters.

Good Reads review:
For fourteen years, Letty Espinosa has worked three jobs around San Francisco to make ends meet while her mother raised her children—Alex, now fifteen, and Luna, six—in their tiny apartment on a forgotten spit of wetlands near the bay. But now Letty’s parents are returning to Mexico, and Letty must step up and become a mother for the first time in her life.

Navigating this new terrain is challenging for Letty, especially as Luna desperately misses her grandparents and Alex, who is falling in love with a classmate, is unwilling to give his mother a chance. Letty comes up with a plan to help the family escape the dangerous neighborhood and heartbreaking injustice that have marked their lives, but one wrong move could jeopardize everything she’s worked for and her family’s fragile hopes for the future.

Vanessa Diffenbaugh blends gorgeous prose with compelling themes of motherhood, undocumented immigration, and the American Dream in a powerful and prescient story about family
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I received an e-book version of this book via Net Galley. All thoughts and opinions expressed here are my own.

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