Archive for the ‘abandonment’ Tag

Love in the time of chaos   Leave a comment

Olga Dies Dreaming by Xochitl Gonzalez  is beautifully written with tough themes portrayed with a disarming touch. Abandonment, betrayal, family secrets, relationships, rebellion and politics are among the many themes throughout this debut work.

Olga and her older brother, Prieto, were abandoned by their mother, a revolutionary for Puerto Rico’s independence. The children were raised in Brooklyn by their father, a former activist, before dying from AIDs, the result of his heroin addiction.  Relatives, especially their grandmother, took charge. Despite this rocky upbringing, Olga and Prieto are seemingly successful adults. She’s a wedding planner and he’s a congressman.

Although their mother never returns to see them, she is aware of their lives as proven in the sporadic letters written to Olga. The letters, sent from 1990 to 2016, are like harsh lectures about Puerto Rico’s history.

The narrative begins in July 2017 leading to before and after the devastating hurricanes that struck the island. Olga’s life is filled with her business, her relationships with her family, clients and a new romance. Prieto is a popular politician in his Brooklyn community, although Olga and others soon wonder about his recent voting record.

The characters are vibrant and the settings, Brooklyn and Puerto Rico, are vivid. Olga is a likeable. She credibly weathers her personal storms. Her circumstances, and her family’s, may be different than those of many readers. Yet, Gonzalez makes them relatable.

Olga’s mother is harsh in denouncements of the status quo. Although her methods are questionable, her cause isn’t.

Olga Dies Dreaming

Four+ Bookmarks

Flat Iron Books, 2021

373 pages

Rejection and Survival   1 comment

Poetic and heartbreaking, harsh and heartwarming are all apt descriptions of Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. The novel combines two of my favorite elements in one: a love story and a mystery.

Kya is six years old when she watches as her mother, carrying a suitcase, walks away from the ramshackle family home in the North Carolina marshlands never looking back. Soon, her older siblings do likewise, leaving the child with her father, an often violent drunk. Eventually, he leaves, too.

The years pass and Kya not only survives on her own, but knows the birds, fauna, flora and tides that define the marsh; the land is her life. She’s maliciously referred to as the Marsh Girl by those in the nearby town. Through the kindness of Tate, a young boy a few years older, Kya learns to read and write. When he leaves for college years later, Chase, another young man, takes an interest in her. He’s popular, handsome and hides his relationship with Kya knowing it would tarnish his reputation.

When Chase is found dead, Kya is an immediate suspect.

Owens writing beautifully of the marsh, its inlets and the open sea beyond its horizon. Kya is an endearing character, although it’s hard, at times to believe she was able to successfully slip through the cracks and thrive on her own. She’s intelligent and resourceful, she’s also experienced heartbreak after heartbreak, but it’s easy to dispel the idea that she could, in fact, be a murderer.

Where the Crawdads Sing
Four-and-a-half bookmarks
G.P Putnam’s Sons, 2018
370 pages

Lotsa Luck   Leave a comment

9781400067244

Lucky Us by Amy Bloom is a great title, because it can be uttered in different ways: with a note of sarcasm or with an emphasis on appreciation. Thanks to Bloom’s strength as a story teller, the reader is the lucky one.

From the onset, this is a captivating story of how families get by, not in a financial way but emotionally. It’s a look at the way we create families when those we’re born into cause disappointment and pain. This is the case for all of the main characters. Twelve-year-old Eva, abandoned by her unmarried mother, is left to live with her father and his daughter, Iris. Iris’s own mother has recently died and the girls are motherless, but now each has a sister. The two are as different as salt and pepper, but together they add zest to what could otherwise be uneventful lives.

The book has a surprisingly large number of significant characters who appear like traffic cops signaling directions. Bloom moves her characters from Ohio to Hollywood to Brooklyn – and points beyond. Yet, no one is superfluous.

Love, both carnal and platonic, is a major force, but the strongest elements are familial connections. Eva and Iris support each other’s strengths: Eva has brains, Iris has beauty. Both have limited common sense. The appeal of Bloom’s writing escalates as the friends/family they add to their circle grows. At times it seems far-fetched, but mostly it’s a matter of luck, the kind we all know: good and bad.

Lucky Us
Four Bookmarks
Random House, 2014
240 pages