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.
My take: 2.5 looks
I know that second books are difficult. As a matter of fact, Diffenbaugh opens her Acknowledgments section with this statement. After reading her first book, The Language of Flowers, in 2011, I note that I had the same kinds of issues with that story asI have with this one.
First of all, the main character, Letty, was more irritating than ingratiating. I think I was supposed to feel that she was struggling to fit into the role of parenting, and feel sympathy and compassion for her path from bystander to caretaker. Instead, she irritated at almost every turn. Her constant giving in to Luna, her constant brushing off of Alex, her constant excuses and ignoring things which demanded her attention because she just didn’t feel up to it…it all wore very thin for me.
It started, as a matter of fact, with the grandmother leaving. Why would a grandmother completely hijack the raising of Luna, only to completely abandon her years later? It just didn’t make sense. And why on earth did Letty feel such a compulsion to continue to send her mother money, even after the abandonment? Not only that, but the very idea that her mother enclosed a self-addressed envelope for money, knowing that Letty would be struggling to make ends meet as it was. Perhaps it is a cultural thing, but it was not realistic in the least.
Then there is the love triangle. I am sick of the literary device that a woman can’t make a decision because too much is happening too fast in her life. That is just not the reality of things. And the fact that Letty waits almost too late for a happy ending, again very contrived.
In the end, if I want to recommend a Diffenbaugh novel, it will be Flowers and not this one.
Thank you to NetGalley for providing an Advance Reader Copy in exchange for this honest review.